After all the false alarms, the crisis of British democracy is finally here. The cause is not a nebulous concept like “disinformation” or a prime minister getting ousted by her own party in less time than it took a head of lettuce to brown, as was the amusing case with Liz Truss in 2022. The actual democratic process has come under assault, and London is buckling under the pressure.

This all came to a head on Wednesday. Now there is full agreement across the political spectrum on what happened and why. The unanswered question is whether the “Mother of Parliaments,” as England’s contribution to democracy is known, will do anything about it.

On Wednesday, the opposition Scottish National Party put up a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Normally, the House of Commons would then vote on it. But the speaker of the House jettisoned the normal process and first allowed the Labour Party to water down the language in the resolution.

Why did the speaker let Labour hijack someone else’s bill? Because, he said, he feared Labour members of parliament would be assassinated by pro-Hamas thugs if they didn’t get the language exactly right.

“I will defend every member in this House. Every member matters to me in this House,” Speaker Lindsay Hoyle explained. “And it has been said, both sides, I never, ever want to go through a situation where I pick up a phone to find a friend of whatever side has been murdered by a terrorist.” Then he referenced a 2017 terror attack on parliament and said: “I also don’t want another attack on this House. I was in the chair on that day. I have seen, I have witnessed.”

The obvious question is: If Labour members thought they’d be in danger for voting against Hamas’s wishes, why wouldn’t they just vote for the SNP ceasefire bill? The answer is that it would embarrass Labour leader Keir Starmer, who has been desperately trying to remove the stain of anti-Semitism left by his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn and didn’t want to see dozens of Labour members vote for the SNP’s anti-Israel resolution. So he convinced the speaker of the House to break tradition and protect Labour by letting them go first.

Chaos ensued. Members of the Tories and SNP walked out. The speaker found himself fighting to keep his job, offering emotional apologies. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak scolded the cowards of the Commons: “I think the important point here is that we should never let extremists intimidate us into changing the way in which Parliament works. Parliament is an important place for us to have these debates. And just because some people may want to stifle that with intimidation or aggressive behavior, we should not bend to that and change how Parliament works. That’s a very slippery slope.”

But a Jewish member of parliament delivered some harsh truths on Thursday. “If we have a rerun of the debate we had yesterday, we will have exactly the same thing happen again, which is that members will not vote with their hearts because they are frightened and they are scared,” Tory MP Andrew Percy said on the House floor. “And what do we expect? For months I’ve been standing up here talking about the people on our streets demanding death to Jews, demanding jihad, demanding intifadas as the police stand by and allow that to happen.”

Percy then called attention to something that had happened the night before, an episode both deeply shameful to Britain and chillingly dystopian. Pro-Hamas protesters projected the genocidal slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” onto parliament’s Elizabeth Tower, better known as Big Ben.

“This is going to continue happening, because we’re not dealing with it,” Percy admonished. “So if we have a rerun of this, can the leader explain to me what will be any different, and how will members vote with their hearts and their consciences? Because too many will not, at the moment, because of the threats we’re receiving—threats like telling us to leave this country, in some of our cases, and telling us that they want us or our families to be subjected to pain and to death.”

MPs facing increased death threats have found their homes targeted by activists. Some have increased their personal security and have been told to stop advertising some of their in-person appearances.

All this while they are violating parliamentary norms and changing their votes out of fear.

In the U.S., legislators act out of fear of losing the support of pro-Hamas voters. In the UK, they vote out of fear of being murdered by the same. British democracy is approaching a truly dark hour.

+ A A -
You may also like
Share via
Copy link