In scenes reminiscent of the worst days of Brexit, the UK parliament descended into a chaotic, unedifying farce last week when the Speaker, decided to dispense with the parliamentary rule book.

And what followed was Parliament at its worst.

For the self-styled “Mother of Parliaments”, it was an embarrassing shambles from start to finish, and I could only wonder what the visiting parliamentarians from Malawi thought as they looked down from the visitors’ gallery at the events unfolding below them.

More than that however, I thought about the Palestinian Ambassador and how he was feeling, seeing a debate on an issue which was so dear and so personal to him, being usurped and delayed, first by multiple spurious Points of Order, and then by the former Chair of the Standards Committee, Chris Bryant, dividing the House on a completely uncontroversial 10-minute Rule Bill on changes to the UK Driving Licence.

Done, he admitted later to Channel 4 News, simply to prevent the ceasefire debate starting, in order to ensure a successful outcome (for them) of the Labour meeting with the Speaker.

When the debate did finally start, the chamber was in turmoil. The moment to discuss, and debate meaningfully, the urgent and immediate ceasefire in Gaza was gone.

The Herald: Sir Lindsay Hoyle (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

The need for a ceasefire, the desperate plight of innocent Palestinian civilians, and the upholding of International Humanitarian Law took second place to internal party politicking by the Labour leadership and Westminster establishment.

It was a shameful episode and one which, even after this current conflict is resolved, will be long remembered as one of the worst days on parliament.

Despite all of the shenanigans, and the short-term, pyrrhic victory of party politics over principle, the very real issues around a ceasefire, UK arms sales to Israel and flagrant breeches of International Humanitarian Law, have not gone away.

They are still there, and they still require our urgent attention, because we can all see that Israel is aggressively pursuing a policy of collective punishment of the Palestinian people, in response to the Hamas atrocities of October 7th.

I fully accept that Israel has the right to defend itself, but it does not have the right to lay siege to a civilian population, carpet-bomb densely inhabited areas, drive people from their homes, erase a whole civilian infrastructure, and impose a “collective punishment” on an entire people for the actions of a terrorist group.

Despite the evidence before us, there are still those in parliament who baulk at using the term “collective punishment”, but what else could it be, other than an illegal collective punishment of an entire civilian population, when an occupying force cuts off supplies of water, food, and fuel?

What, if not an illegal collective punishment, could it be when the occupying force denies the delivery of essential medical aid to civilians caught up in a warzone.

And how else, if not an illegal collective punishment, could the forced displacement of two million people, and the creation of the world’s largest refugee camp, be described?

And if not an illegal collective punishment, what other words could adequately describe there being 30,000 dead civilian, 80,000 injured civilians and an estimate 18,000 Palestinian children now left without a single living relative, in just five months.

It is an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe which must be called out for what it is, but the UK and the United States turning a blind-eye or trying to legitimise the actions of the Israeli authorities as being a “unique case” is deeply dangerous road to go down.

International Law is there to protect us all, and how can we have any confidence that this world order will still exist to protect us from future atrocities if those who are charged with upholding that law decide to pick and choose who can act with impunity and who can’t.

If we allow the concept of self-defence to be so manipulated by those claiming that they are ‘adhering to international humanitarian law’, then the slaughter of 30,000 innocent civilians will become the new standard of normal and set an incredibly dangerous precedent for what the world will accept next time.

And how can democracies, those who founded on the principle of inalienable human rights and the rule of law, not simply choose to look the other way, but become actively complicit by selling weapons to Israel; weapons which will be used by Israel in the destruction of Gaza and the slaughter of innocent civilians?

I believe we are at a crisis point, and the UK and the United States in particular need to decide now whether to continue on the path they are on; the path which says that international law, justice, and accountability does not apply to our friends, only to our enemies.

The alternative is they take a step back and recognise that the world will be a far, far safer place if those vitally important international institutions, institution which we were pivotal in creating, are strengthened, and supported, and allowed to operate freely, without fear nor favour.

Our friends must be judged to exactly the same standard as our enemies. Anything less and the whole system of international justice and the rules-based order simply falls apart. The stakes are that high.

And that is why as politicians, I believe these are the times for which we all be remembered, because in decades hence, people will say to us, you were there, what did you do?

Did you stand up for international law, justice, and accountability or did you try to defend the indefensible simply because it was too difficult not to.