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Hoyle on the hook

By Jim Hancock

By Jim Hancock

Jim reflects on the Speakership of Lindsay Hoyle, the forthcoming Rochdale by election and possibly (not another one) in Lancashire.

As I write, Lindsay Hoyle’s future as Speaker of the House of Commons is in the balance.

My colleague Frank McKenna will discuss in his blog the parliamentary drama involving the Scottish Nationalists which brought about the peril for Hoyle.

I merely want to reflect that up to now the man from Chorley has done so much to restore the reputation of the Speakership. After the confrontational style of John Bercow, Hoyle’s down to earth Lancashire geniality was well received on all sides of the House. He was admired for his campaign against ministers making major announcements outside the House. His remedy was to allow most Opposition demands to force ministers to make urgent statements so their policies could be examined in a timely manner.

After all this good work this Gaza crisis loomed up. The SNP wanted to exploit Labour divisions and Sir Keir Starmer was grateful that Hoyle allowed them to amend the SNP motion as well as the Conservative motion.

This was against the advice of the Clerk of the House because precedent doesn’t allow for two amendments. The Speaker says he just wanted all points of view to be discussed. That seems a reasonable position to take and Commons daft rules should be amended to allow it. However, precedent dictated otherwise, and accusations started to fly that Hoyle, once a Labour MP, had made his decision to avoid a massive Labour backbench revolt over the refusal of Sir Keir Starmer to call for a permanent ceasefire.

ROCHDALE BY ELECTION

The Gaza crisis is permeating much of British politics at the moment. Next week the people of Rochdale go to the polls without a Labour candidate. They seem likely to choose between George Galloway standing on a platform to punish Sir Keir Starmer over his Gaza position or Azhar Ali. He is now in a political limbo having lost his Labour parliamentary nomination and his leadership of the Labour group on Lancashire Council to Jenny Mein, the former leader. He may win on a low poll and serve for a few months before potentially having to face his old party with a fresh General Election candidate.

Rochdale by elections have a long history. In 1958 Granada TV challenged an archaic rule on political coverage to broadcast debates between the candidates for the first time. They included the famous broadcaster Ludovic Kennedy standing for the Liberals. They had to wait 13 years for another by election in the town when they were successful under Cyril Smith. Now Rochdale has another by election and afterwards needs a break from the controversy that the community there doesn’t deserve.

AND STILL THEY COME

And another Northwest by election seems possible. The Tories’ ability to deliver a stream of discredited MPs seems endless. Blackpool South MP Scott Benton has been found guilty of breaching Commons rules on lobbying ministers and a recall petition is likely.

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