Weekly Column

A Man’s a Man for all that.

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Sir Lindsay Hoyle has been a fine Speaker. He has made great use of his Office, and of the whole of Parliament to promote all kinds of interests, and he has upheld the highest standards of behaviour in every way. As a member of his Panel of Chairmen and of the Procedure Committee and through my military interest, of which he is a great champion, I have observed his work at close quarters and greatly admired it.  He is universally popular on both sides of the House, and so far as I can be aware is always dispassionate and balanced in his judgements.

I am not privy to what happened over the SNP debate last week, but if the widely held rumours are true, Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour Chief Whip disgracefully influenced, perhaps even forced Mr Speaker into an error of judgement when he (quite wrongly) chose the Labour amendment thereby effectively preventing the SNP from voting on their own motion. That was the wrong thing to have done; it was against the published advice of the guardian of the Parliamentary rules, the Clerk; but it is Starmer’s fault for improperly pressurizing the Speaker with the aim of avoiding a huge rebellion on his Labour benches. If those rumours can be substantiated, then Starmer and his Labour henchmen are guilty of a disgraceful abuse of the Constitution.

The whole House has been engulfed in allegations of anti-semitism and Islamophobia. The Labour shambles in the Rochdale by-election where they deselected their candidate for his anti-semitic views only by that means allowing that great and avowed antisemitic, George Galloway into Parliament is a classic example of this nonsense. These allegations and counter briefings achieve nothing. If I accuse you of being a liar and a cheat it is virtually impossible for you to get rid of that smear. And if all you do is counterclaim that I am even worse, then we are  confirming the commonly held view that “they’re just as bad as each other.” We must avoid stimulating our party political cajónes by accusing each other of things, so much as demonstrating our own decency by abhorring being anti-anything.

So let us put all this nonsense to one side, and try to remember the great Martin Niemöller:-

'First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.'

As Robert Burns so famously said: “For a’ that, an’ a’ that/ It’s comin’ yet for a’ that/That Man to Man the warld o’er/Shall brithers be for a’ that”. Its not about being anti-semitic, nor anti those who we deem to be anti Semitic, nor anti Islamic, not anti anything. I don’t care whether you’re a man or a woman, gay or straight, black or white. I care about your character, about your decency, above all about your humanity.

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James Gray MP
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Published Date
March 1, 2024