Parliamentary chaos reflected in Rochdale by-election circus

The chap offering me the warm greeting, delivered with a smile while leaning out his car window, was in Rochdale. But plenty might have offered the same description of Westminster over the last day or two.

I have spent a few days in Rochdale, in Greater Manchester, taking a look at the bizarre by election race happening there after the death of the Labour MP Sir Tony Lloyd. The Labour candidate Azhar Ali has been disowned by his party for allegedly anti-Semitic remarks he has apologised for.

But there are still two former Labour MPs in the running: George Galloway and Simon Danczuk. While we were there the Conservative candidate was on holiday – a week before polling day. Oh and the Green Party have disowned their candidate too.

But the key thing here is the connection between Rochdale and Westminster – the conflict between Israel and Gaza. The anger, the anguish, the tension it causes, stretching to breaking point conventions, language and fury.

To be the Speaker of the House of Commons is to sit above politics.An MP formerly steeped in party politics, for all speakers start out that way, renounces their public tribal instincts and are tasked with working impartially on behalf of all their colleagues.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, a former Labour MP, emphasised his collegiate, cross party demeanour more than most when chasing the job – following as he was John Bercow, who critics saw as spectacularly partial on the issue of Brexit during years of furious Commons argument.

And Sir Lindsay’s share price among his colleagues was high, well liked by the vast majority on all sides. His share price has taken a whack for a good number of MPs.

Plenty of Conservative and Scottish National Party MPs I speak to are livid, convinced that whether he intended to or not, Sir Lindsay’s actions dug his old party, Labour, out of a hole.
Senior figures in both parties tell me of their surprise too that Sir Lindsay did not make a greater effort sooner to invite them in to try to take some of the heat out of things.

The question now is whether that anger coagulates into an ongoing zeal to make his position untenable, either by more MPs demanding he resigns, or by refusing to cooperate with him in the day to day functioning of parliament.

The alternative is it eases as attention turns back to the imminence of the general election and the party political battles each party and each MP running again soon faces.

Plus, MPs have to ponder if whoever they might end up with instead of Sir Lindsay would actually amount to an improvement in their eyes.

John Bercow was deeply disliked by many MPs – particularly Conservatives – during a fair chunk of his time as Speaker.

He managed to motor on through no end of gripes and flashpoints. Sometimes momentum builds, and then dissipates.

But sometimes it carries on building. Sir Lindsay Hoyle hasn’t before encountered as rough a few days as Speaker as these. It is a deeply uncomfortable time for him. And the discomfort is not over yet.

Source: BBC

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