British parliament plunged into chaos over Gaza cease-fire vote

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LONDON — Angry MPs staged a walkout in the House of Commons Wednesday night and vented their fury at Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, as a symbolic vote on a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas descended into chaos.

MPs from the Scottish National Party and a raft of Conservatives walked out of the parliamentary chamber in protest at Hoyle, who they accused of tipping the scales in favor of Labour — a charge denied by Hoyle in an emotional statement.

Wednesday night’s fractious scenes came after a day of Commons intrigue over the Gaza vote.

MPs had been set to vote on a motion from the Scottish National Party calling for an “immediate” cease-fire in Gaza. The SNP used its dedicated “opposition day” in the Commons to push the motion.

But Hoyle intervened to allow the opposition Labour Party — which feared a rebellion from its own MPs amid pressure over its response to the conflict — to put forward its own amendment to the motion, which also backed an  “immediate humanitarian cease-fire” but included softer language on Israel’s conduct in the war.

Hoyle’s move had little precedent, and was criticized on the record by the chamber’s most senior official, Clerk Tom Goldsmith. The decision denied the SNP — seeking to exploit Labour divisions on Gaza — a chance to vote on their own motion on an SNP opposition day.

Hoyle’s intervention sparked outrage too from the ruling Conservatives, who had planned to offer their own Gaza motion but withdrew from the process in protest.

A visibly emotional Hoyle eventually apologized — but only once Labour’s motion had passed. “I have tried to do what I thought was the right thing for all sides of the House,” he said, to shouts from Conservative and SNP lawmakers.

“It is regrettable and I apologize for the decision that didn’t end up in the place that I wished,” Hoyle added.

He offered to meet with all party leaders to resolve the row — but that may not be enough for the SNP. The party’s Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn told Hoyle directly that he would “take significant convincing that your position is not now intolerable.”