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Editorial: By deliberately derailing the Gaza vote, Starmer shames democracy and betrays humanity

WEDNESDAY was a day of shame for the House of Commons. Few powers around the world are more important in supporting Israel’s genocidal attack on the Palestinians of Gaza than Britain.

Yet MPs could not even organise a dignified debate and vote on a ceasefire. Instead, the Commons collapsed into farce, marked by delaying tactics, procedural chicanery and walkouts.

The person most responsible for this is Keir Starmer.  

Yes, Speaker Lindsay Hoyle will have questions to answer over why he bent the rules to allow Labour to wriggle off the hook of its own divisions.

But it is the Labour leader who precipitated the crisis for cynical reasons of party management. He turned parliamentary procedures upside down to maintain a fiction of Labour cohesion.

Indeed, the whole episode is rooted exclusively in Starmer’s embrace of Israel’s attack on Gaza, to the extent of endorsing blatant Israeli war crimes.

That has riven Labour from top to bottom. It precipitated the biggest rebellion against his leadership when the Commons voted on the issue in November last year. 

The mass movement of solidarity with the Palestinians has only grown in size and anger since. Those MPs who backed Starmer’s “no ceasefire” line are running scared of their constituents.

And rightly so. While a line must be drawn at violence, or threats of it, elected representatives have no right to be insulated from the feelings of their constituents. In fact, democracy demands exposure to them. 

The last thing Starmer wanted was another Commons vote, likely leading to a split which would have dwarfed November’s.

Both Commons debates on a Gaza ceasefire have arisen from the initiative of the Scottish National Party, to its credit.

If Labour wanted to advance its own position it has ample parliamentary opportunities to do so — far more than the SNP. Yet it has ducked, caught between the sentiments of the electorate and orders from Washington.

So when the SNP yet again put MPs on the spot by using one of its few debate slots to table a motion demanding a ceasefire — the position of most of the world, including every state at the UN security council bar the US and Britain — Starmer panicked.

In recognition of the boiling anger on the streets, he presented his own position in the form of an amendment, including a demand for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” hedged about with caveats.

That in itself was testimony to the impact of the movement for a ceasefire and justice for the Palestinians.

However, Commons conventions meant that the amendment would not be voted on, leaving MPs to either back the SNP’s firmer motion or the government’s amendment — or abstain yet again.

Few people are interested in the arcana of House of Commons procedure: the short fact is that Starmer bludgeoned the Speaker into overturning convention, against the published advice of his clerks, and allowing Labour’s amendment to be voted on.

He even ordered his MPs to string out inconsequential business through filibusters and time-consuming votes while bullying Hoyle backstage.

It all had the effect of denying the House the chance to vote on the SNP’s original motion. Hence the chaotic end to the debate on Wednesday night.

And for what? If Starmer imagines that the shambles will take any heat off Labour MPs, he is sorely mistaken. They have betrayed Gaza again.

Britain likes to preen itself on being home to the “mother of parliaments.” If that conceit were so, Starmer has orphaned democracy in the interests of imperialism and war. 

Should these sordid events demand resignations, his should be first in line.

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