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Gutter politics brings parliament into further disrepute

By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

Frank McKenna condemns the gutter politics of the SNP which brought parliament into disrepute this week.

The stature of the UK parliament and politicians in this country generally has probably never been lower.

The deterioration of reputation has been relentless and rapid since the MPs expenses scandal back in the late Noughties.

A period of relative stability during the Coalition years was quickly replaced by the chaos of Brexit, the shambolic management of the Johnson administration (not to mention the PMs law-breaking, and his lying to the House), the Liz Truss disastrous interlude, a string of dishonourable Members finding themselves in trouble for everything from pornographic Tractors to flashing at their office staff, and this week, scenes in Westminster which did nothing to challenge the notion of those who say that our politicians are of low-calibre and the Commons no longer a serious political debating chamber. 

The unprecedented row that erupted in the Commons on Wednesday evening came on the back of the Speaker, Lyndsay Hoyle, agreeing to take a vote on not just the government’s amendment to the SNPs motion on the Gaza conflict – but to accept a further amendment from Labour too.

Apparently, this is against ‘protocol’. So, custom and practice, clearly for many decades, in the Mother of Parliaments, has been to close and narrow debate, rather than encourage as wide a ranging discussion as possible. Hardly a protocol to die on the cross for I wouldn’t have thought.

In practical political terms, of course, this meant that the SNPs trap to embarrass Keir Starmer and the Labour leadership was thwarted. Apparently, damaging Labour by having up to 100 Labour MPs vote for their motion – in the absence of a Labour amendment – was more important to SNP Leader Stephen Flynn and his colleagues than the plight of the thousands of victims in the war-torn Middle East whom they were claiming to really care about. 

Political game-playing and tactics are all well and good. But using the suffering and misery of innocent civilians, including thousands of children, to score marginal political gain, is the sort of gutter politics that is far more contemptable than the Speaker of the House ignoring a nineteenth century protocol in a twenty-first century parliament.

The Nationalists, and those on the left of the Labour movement inside and outside of parliament, should hang their heads in shame when they reflect on their anger not on the failure of a ceasefire being called for – because Labours motion calling for just that was actually passed – but at their petulant agitation and anger at their inability to use such a tragic situation to damage Keir Starmer and his chances of winning the next election. 

Gesture politics have me shaking my head in dismay. Gutter politics have me shaking with rage. I hope the SNP gets what it deserves when electors go to the polls later this year.

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