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diSPINgenous - Commentary On The Political Tactics Utilised Throughout The Ceasefire Motion Chaos.

Today the House of Commons was turned upside down by a procedural impropriety which caused an eruption of chaos. Spin doctors have since worked tirelessly to sculpt narratives which suit their party’s cause, producing prominent accusations that opposing parties are ‘politicising’ the tragedy in the Middle East.

While it unfortunately cannot be said that any party has been entirely free from political motivation in today’s proceedings, the disingenuous spin from the Labour party is of particular note and exposes the stark reality of their willingness to compromise everything to win an election.

The battleground of the day was set to be the SNP's proposed motion for the house to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza - a motion which the Labour leadership wouldn’t support for various reasons;

From a political perspective, Labour didn’t want to be seen to be following the SNP’s lead because in doing so their leader Keir Starmer would have been portrayed as as a follower - something which they seemingly felt would damage his image and dissuade voters. Additionally, from an electoral perspective they didn’t want to support the motion because it affirms Israels collective punishment of Palestinians; a charge which (if endorsed) may lose Labour support from some of their target voters on the right of the political spectrum who have a cast iron and unalterable support of Israels action. Labour also wished to avoid drawing any dividing lines between themselves and the Conservatives which could encourage unfair attack narratives to be formed ahead of the upcoming campaign.

Labour representatives spun their objection to the motion by arguing that the SNP’s ceasefire call was weak an would perhaps only apply to Israel and not Hamas. This is just categorically untrue. Labour spun their objection further by arguing that it doesn’t make sense for them to alienate a large group of potential voters in an election year - this is a clear admission of political motivation.

Not being prepared to support the SNP’s motion but being equally pressured by those on the left of the party who rightfully demand a ceasefire call, Labour accordingly proposed an amendment to the motion which diluted it significantly, removing any reference of collective punishment and changing substantial terms. It had the words “immediate” and “ceasefire” however, and so was bound to get the support of Labour MPs as well as SNP MPs (despite it being manifestly different from the SNPs original motion and despite SNP MPs also having intended to maintain support for their original motion).

David Lammy spun Labours position by arguing that the Labour amendment went ‘further’ than the SNP’s original motion, but while there was more content in it (including welcome calls for recognition of Palestinian statehood), it took the weight out of the SNP’s motion and diverted the substance of the vote to aspects of the Gaza issue which are clearly less contentious and authoritative than that of calling out collective punishment (a war crime).

When the Conservative government introduced their own amendment to the motion, it became unlikely that the Labour amendment would be selected for voting due to existing standing orders regulating parliamentary procedure and the precedent surrounding their enforcement. This would have created an ultimatum for the Labour leadership in which significant rebellion would be likely.

Labour MPs accordingly stalled proceedings in the chamber while their leader and whips exerted pressure on the speaker of the house, unduly influencing him into abandoning parliamentary precedent and changing procedural rules to allow Labours amendment to be voted on. It is alleged that Labour whips blackmailed the speaker by threatening withdrawal of support for him in the next parliamentary term when Labour (inevitably) win a majority. This is disputed by Labour representatives who argue that the pressure that they exerted related to intimidating threats made against MPs by members of the public. This however is still political pressure, and no matter which account is true, political pressure from one party caused the speaker to go against the advice of his expert clerks and unilaterally deviate from established precedent despite having been expressly warned that such action risked the vote on the original motion being skipped.

The Conservative leadership then withdrew their party’s participation from the votes, citing confidence in the speaker (although undoubtedly being politically motivated). This left Labour and the SNP as the two main remaining voting parties, paving the way for the Labour motion to be approved which would mean that the SNP motion would not be voted on at all. The SNP then left the chamber enraged but nevertheless proceeded to the ‘aye’ corridor while preparing to vote in favour of the Labour amendment.

Labour have since spun this fiasco and the resulting outrage of the SNP as the SNP playing politics and acting the victim while Palestinians suffer. This is shamefully disingenuous;

Labour have had eight opportunities since the beginning of the conflict to force a ceasefire vote via an opposition debate day motion, but they have never done so. This has been a conscious political decision based on the fact that the issue inhibits the parties electoral appeal to some target voter groups and could highlight a split in the party which threatens Keir Starmer’s authority and image.

Additionally, when the SNP forced a ceasefire vote on the 15th of November 2023, the Labour leadership set a three-line whip ordering all MPs to abstain to which all but 56 Labour MPs adhered.

Labour representatives are spinning todays ceasefire motion as being produced and passed by the Labour Party who vigilantly promote the Palestinian cause in the face of their plight. Why then did they abstain from the first ceasefire vote forced by the SNP, and why did they not take any of their eight subsequent opportunities to introduce their own ceasefire motion? Why did Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer describe cutting off electricity and water to Gaza and laying siege to Gaza itself (a clear example of collective punishment) as Israel’s “right”? Why did it take the prospect of the SNP’s motion and potential party rebellion for the Labour leadership to change their stance and finally call for a ceasefire?

Labour representatives are also spinning the situation to portray the SNP as being aligned with the Conservatives due to their respective stances on the speakers decision. This completely misrepresents the situation and attempts to absolve Labour whips of any responsibility from their pressuring of the speaker. If Boris Johnson was reported to have blackmailed the speaker of the house into changing procedural rules to suit his political agenda, Labour MPs would have rightly been outraged and acted accordingly. Furthermore, it is the Labour party, not the SNP, who mirror Conservative positions on key policies and issues to appeal to centre right swing voters in England. The proposition that by opposing the alleged blackmail of the House of Commons speaker the SNP forfeit any right to criticise Labour when they mirror Conservative positions is therefore quite incredible.

While disingenuous spin can and should be analysed in depth, the real tragedy in this fiasco is the Labour Party’s cowardly position which ignores the clear collective punishment of Palestinians by Israeli authorities. At a conference just last weekend, the Scottish branch of UK Labour voted in favour of a motion condemning Israel’s collective punishment, yet only a few days later the UK Labour Party are happy to ignore their own parties resolution and shamefully turn a blind eye, sit on their hands, and ignore reality purely for political purposes. Keir Starmer is happy to call out Vladimir Putins war crimes, but not Israel’s. Why?

The politically motivated actions of the Labour leadership have caused the incredibly important scheduled vote on the UK parliaments recognition of the collective punishment of Palestinians, along with the call for an unequivocal immediate ceasefire to be skipped. This is a colossal affront to democracy which has trivialised the issue into party political finger pointing fuelled by Westminster’s culture of chaos. Tonight I am writing about spin, tactics, constitutional issues, and deceit. I should be writing about the outcome of a vote which clearly outlines the UK parliaments attitude towards Israels collective punishment of Palestinians. Regardless of the outcome of that vote, it would have been significant and have spurred on the meaningful and necessary debate on the UK’s stance relative to such a pressing issue.



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