Politicians need to “step up and show real leadership” on Gaza says CAFOD after Commons debacle

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 favour of Labour — a charge denied by Hoyle in an emotional statement.

The uproar followed a decision by Hoyle to ignore precedent and allow a vote that helped the opposition Labour Party avoid a large-scale rebellion among its own lawmakers over its position on Israel’s war on Gaza.

The debate in parliament was initiated by the SNP, which put forward a motion calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza. Labour and the Conservatives then proposed amendments, with different conditions they said were necessary before there should be a pause in fighting.

The amendments sought an “immediate humanitarian pause” – and not a ceasefire – and said that “Israel cannot be expected to cease fighting if Hamas continues with violence”.

In an unusual move, Hoyle selected both those amendments to be voted on, breaking with the precedent whereby one opposition party cannot alter another’s motion. Usually, only the government amendment would be selected.

Some lawmakers jeered the speaker when he announced his decision.

During the chaos, the Labour amendment was eventually approved verbally, without a formal vote where individual lawmakers’ views are recorded. One member of parliament accused Hoyle, a former Labour lawmaker, of causing a “constitutional crisis”.

Responding to the eventual vote, CAFOD’s (Catholic aid agency for England and Wales) representative for the Middle East, Elizabeth Funnell, said: “One of CAFOD’s partner staff in Gaza told me that her 7-year old daughter is asking to wear her fancy dress every day currently because if she must die, she wants to be wearing her favourite dress. That is the reality of the horror that the children of Gaza are facing.

“We are pleased that parliament passed the motion calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, because an immediate and permanent ceasefire is the only way to ensure the release of all hostages, to make sure the huge amount of humanitarian aid that is needed can make its way into Gaza, and to protect all civilians. As Pope Francis tells us, arms alone will never achieve the peace that Israelis and Palestinians deserve.

“At a time when tens of thousands of children have already been killed, we need our political leaders to step up and show real leadership and support a lasting peace.”

  • CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and part of Caritas International. Working with communities across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America to fight poverty and injustice. The agency works with people in need, regardless of race, gender, religion or nationality. cafod.org.uk