I’VE started, so I’ll finish.

That Mastermind phrase, made memorable by the late Magnus Magnusson, sums up the SNP’s position at Westminster today.

Having defied a feeble Commons consensus to stand up for the brutalised people of Gaza, Stephen Flynn must now finish the exercise well, lest the Speaker continues to resist unprecedented calls for his resignation and leaves the SNP looking weak for simply sticking around. Many people are asking if the SNP should quit Westminster for the rest of this session if Sir Lindsay Hoyle remains in place – or come back up the road for good.

It’s a tricky situation – but also a problem of Flynn’s success.

His resolute, articulate and immediate response to Labour’s dirty tricks over Gaza last week has given prominence and credibility to the only Westminster leader ready to campaign for an urgent ceasefire. As a result, the party’s had more airtime than at any other time since Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation. Then the SNP were on the back foot. Now they’re moving forwards with confidence. That mustn’t falter.

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Of course, the news focus has been the unruly scenes in the Commons. Yet every SNP contributor on TV and radio has also managed to highlight the issues of collective punishment, arms sales to Israel, genocide, Britain’s shameful abstention at the UN Security Council and the puny nature of protest by every other party.

Yes, there have been accusations of SNP opportunism, which faded after Labour’s Chris Bryant MP confirmed on Channel 4 News that he deliberately delayed parliamentary proceedings ahead of the SNP debate to let Keir Starmer and his posse “visit” and “persuade” (but heavens, not bully) the Speaker into running Labour’s amendment first.

Yesterday, Plaid Cymru’s three MPs added their names to the motion of no confidence in Sir Lindsay Hoyle, bringing the total to 90. Their move was prompted by the Speaker’s second snub to the SNP, when he rejected an emergency debate on ending arms sales to Israel on Monday, despite offering just such a debate to the SNP as compensation for his botched handling of their original ceasefire motion last week.

Hoyle maintained that a government statement delivered on Tuesday would achieve more or less the same thing.


The National: Sir Lindsay Hoyle

To paraphrase Flynn’s memorable line, that’s like saying he and William Hague are political twins since they both show a bit of scalp.

Ridiculous – and so it proved.

The statement and ensuing “debate” attracted a substantial SNP contingent but only a handful of Labour and Tory MPs – yet they got the lion’s share of the contributions.

Only one SNP speaker, Brendan O’Hara MP, was called in the first half hour. He talked about starvation, genocide, and the moral cowardice of a British government determined to look the other way as thousands more Palestinians die.

Labour talked about re-issuing humanitarian aid visas the Tories talked about allocating funds to help Palestinian women give birth safely – amongst the bombs and food shortages.

Talk about fiddling while Rome burns. Listening to this “debate” after lunchtime reports of death, grief, despair and hunger in Gaza made me feel mildly sick.

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Of course, some think the SNP statement was all about “grievance” politics. For everyone else, Flynn and the SNP at Westminster have won publicity for Gaza, profile for an arms embargo and some sympathy, perhaps even grudging respect, for themselves. The thing now is not to squander that.

Which is easier said than done.

Lindsay Hoyle has become a hollow proxy for Keir Starmer, so essentially, the Labour leader has just kicked sand into Flynn’s face – twice. There’s a lot to be said for turning the other cheek but to paraphrase Theresa May – now is not the time.

Having come out all guns blazing last week, seen foreign affairs spokesperson O’Hara raise the bar in Tuesday’s non-debate and urged MPs from other parties to help him dislodge the Speaker, there’s no going back now for Flynn without a massive loss of face. That may be unfair. But them’s the breaks.

The third largest party at Westminster took a bold, principled stand on Gaza and is now locked in battle with a Labour Party leader getting ready to sweep the board at the next election. So, the stakes have been raised – but not just for the beleaguered Speaker.

The National:

The SNP’s “also ran” status within the self-styled “Mother of Parliaments” has been so painfully and publicly affirmed, that the case for a Sinn Fein-style policy of abstention is bound to grow amongst Yessers, if no “win” is forthcoming.

What would that win be?

This paper carried reports on Tuesday that the SNP may mount a “disengagement” protest which could see their MPs refuse to take part in some debates or sit on Commons committees.

That might raise a few eyebrows in Westminster but wouldn’t make the blindest bit of difference anywhere else. And “action” that fails to cut muster will only accentuate the SNP’s impotence at Westminster and the pointlessness of being there at all.

To be clear, Flynn denies any “disengagement” strategy

And at PMQs, he led again with the need for Britain to get off the fence and back an immediate ceasefire at the UN.

It was a dignified set of questions, rightly prioritising Gaza’s survival over the SNP’s procedural problems and Flynn’s approach contrasted dramatically with the slanging match between Rishi Sunak and Starmer that preceded it. But it prompted the same old, stock response from the PM as if all the events of the intervening week had simply not happened.

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Significantly, Flynn added, “abstentionism is not leadership” – talking about the Tories’ stance on Palestine, but perhaps also the SNP’s intention not to quit Westminster.

Flynn’s point was driven home minutes later by Alyn Smith MP who said that a failure to articulate the new Gaza policy adopted by the House last week, would leave people entitled to conclude “this place really is just a sick pantomime”.

Strong words, met by yet more Tory evasion.

But why stay in a sick pantomime? And if “disengagement” and “abstentionism” are out, what’s in?

Flynn's predecessor Ian Blackford attracted some praise for a 2018 walkout over Number 10’s post-Brexit power grab, when the Skye MP spoke of a “complete breakdown” in Edinburgh/London relations and promised a campaign of parliamentary guerrilla tactics to cause maximum disruption to Theresa May’s government. But that didn’t happen. Are we there again?

Amassing votes to oust the Speaker is fine, but will mean Tory support – awkward for a left-of-centre party keen to put a million miles between itself and a brutal, failing Westminster government in a General Election year.

And who would be elected in Hoyle’s place? There’s talk of Eleanor Laing, deputy speaker and Conservative MP for Epping Forest. Whoop, whoop.

Of course, now that Flynn’s called on Hoyle to go, he must do everything to achieve that objective.

But he should know that indy supporters expect more – like an intervention during the budget. Agreed – that would be difficult to do well and runs the risk of looking petty and self-aggrandising.

But Flynn’s judgement has been pretty good so far.

As my mother used to say, it’s a great life if you don’t weaken.