The Speaker’s capitulation to the ‘Free Palestine’ mob is a dark day for democracy

Instead of arresting them we appease them – and so the threat grows


Pro-Palestinian demonstrators wave Palestinian flags and hold placards as they protest in Parliament Square in London on February 21, 2024, during an Opposition Day motion in the the House of Commons calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP) (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)

February 22, 2024 12:03

So do we believe the Speaker’s own words? Because if we do, something close to terrifying has happened to parliamentary democracy.

Last night’s farce in the Commons has understandably – and rightly – been widely viewed as bringing not just parliament but politics itself into disrepute. It’s obviously important that we get to the bottom of what happened – and the accusation that Sir Lindsay Hoyle capitulated to thinly veiled threats from Labour that if he didn’t do their bidding then his time as Speaker would be up.

But that’s not what Sir Lindsay himself says happened. And if what he says is correct, something far, far worse occurred – something which shakes our very democracy to the core.

In his statement to MPs last night, the Speaker gave his explanation as to why he went against all precedent and protocol and selected the Labour Party’s amendment to be voted on: “I am very, very concerned about the security of all Members. I was very concerned, I am still concerned, and that is why the meetings I have had today were about the security of Members, their families and the people involved.”

In other words, according to Sir Lindsay his reason for selecting the Labour amendment was fear of the mob – that if Labour MPs weren’t given the opportunity to vote for their own ceasefire amendment (since the party had imposed a three line whip against supporting the SNP motion) he feared for their safety. And so he caved in to mob rule.

This is at once both shocking and entirely unsurprising.

Shocking, because if fear of attack – of the screaming, angry mob – is now driving the upending of the rules of Parliament itself, we are in a very dark place.

But unsurprising because: of course we are. You would have to be wilfully blind to what has been happening since October 7 – and in fact for many years before – not to have seen that the fear of the mob has been driving the reaction of almost every element of society.

Every week, for example, mobs of hundreds of thousands take to our streets with genocidal screams of “From the river to the sea”, chanting support of the Houthis, parading posters that could have come straight from Nazi Germany, and demanding jihad and global intifada.

And what do the authorities do? They stand and watch as these hate marches take over London – and other cities – and turn them into no-go areas for Jews. The marches – despite their repeated, clear and proud intent – are given the go-ahead by a police force which has lost the will and the ability to keep the streets free from hate.

Why do the police appease rather than arrest the hate marchers? In part because they know the chances of the CPS following through and charging anyone are close to zero. We are supposed to believe that the calls for jihad are really about the need for the struggle involved in deep internal contemplation rather than a demand for mass murder, and that the phrase ‘globalise the intifada’ refers to shaking. The appeasement borne out of fear is so blatant it’s almost – almost, but not – funny.

The same fear of the mob which leads the Speaker to overturn centuries of parliamentary procedure has taken root almost everywhere. Whitehall, local government, schools…the list of institutions whose operations are driven in large measure by fear of supposed ‘community’ anger goes on. When a teacher in Batley shows a cartoon of Mohammed, he is driven into hiding for three years – so far – because instead of standing by him the authorities cower in fear of the mob.

This week it emerged that Communities Secretary Michael Gove has stopped a £155,000 grant to an interfaith charity because it appointed a member of the Muslim Council of Britain as a trustee. This should be entirely uncontroversial. As he put it in his letter to the charity: “Successive governments have had a longstanding policy of non-engagement with the MCB. The appointment of an MCB trustee to the board of the Inter Faith Network – a government-funded organisation – poses a reputational risk to government.” But instead, the decision has been prominent in BBC news bulletins today, with coverage everywhere. Gove should be applauded for his willingness to make a stand. Instead, the usual suspects pile on.

Yesterday, Sir William Shawcross pointed out that the government has done next to nothing in implementing the most important of the recommendations he made last year in his review of the Prevent programme for countering extremism. That includes legislation for dealing with non-violent extremism. There is no plan for anything, however. The government talks a good game of standing up to extremism but when it comes to action…no plans, no decisions, no bans, just rhetoric. And fear.

Last night’s capitulation to the mob should be a wake up call, now that parliament itself has been seen to be infected by this fear. But if you actually think it will be, then I have a bridge to sell you…

February 22, 2024 12:03

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