Tag Archives: john bercow

SNP stunt kills off chance of devolution debate

Well, I suppose a bit of drama at PMQs brightens up the day, but what exactly was the point of the SNP’s mass walkout and their leader depriving himself of a vote as one of the most crucial pieces of legislation ever to go through the Commons. Not only that, but he had an application in for an emergency debate on the devolution related issues that everyone except the Scottish Tories are livid about. That fell because he was no longer allowed to be there. Presumably the SNP decided that a walkout would get them more attention on the news than a 3 hour debate. It did, but when this news cycle is over, what have they actually achieved? The square root of bugger all, to be honest.

At the heart of all the fuss is the issue of what happens to powers that were enacted by the EU when/if we leave. There is no agreement between the two governments about what should come to Westminster and what should come to Holyrood. The Scottish people don’t seem to give two hoots either way, to be honest. However, the Scottish Parliament voted by a large majority (everyone except the Tories) for the Scottish Government’s Continuity Bill rather than give consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill. This means that the two Governments are not in agreement and the Tories think that the way to resolve that is for Westminster just to dictate what happens. That is simply not acceptable.

However, there isn’t likely to be a settlement that satisfies the SNP. Their prime motivation is to drive as many wedges as they can between the two Parliaments. The clue is in their name. Everything they do is about trying to get independence.

So today, Ian Blackford, the SNP leader, had a justified go at May at PMQs and then pulled one of the biggest diversionary Parliamentary stunts in the book – moving a procedural motion for Parliament to sit in private. That would have meant that the public galleries would have been emptied and that the broadcast would have been stopped, but only if MPs had voted for it. Speaker John Bercow decided to flambe the situation rather than calm it down. He was all over the place on the procedure. First of all he said that the vote should happen straight away. Then he said he was minded to have it at the end of PMQs. Then he gave the SNP a choice. They all said they wanted it there and then and he insisted it would happen later. If he had just held the vote in the middle of PMQs, the SNP would have lost it and normal service would have been restored. Instead, Bercow went over the top and threw Blackford out. I know I’m always saying that Bercow should be throwing people out, but not like this. I meant the people who jeer and behave like toddlers.

The result was that Bercow’s dithering gave the SNP much bigger headlines than they were expecting. The Speaker isn’t usually so ignorant of procedure. You might be forgiven for thinking that he knew exactly what he was doing. He certainly seemed quite chuffed with himself.

But this excitement will die down. And we’ll be no further forward.

Tim Farron has form for this sort of stuff and he thought they’d made a mistake:

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Lib Dem candidate won’t stand against the Speaker after all

Yesterday the Bucks Herald reported:

Buckingham Constituency (Liberal Democrats) will be fighting the General Election on June 8th. This is the first time one of the three major parties has contested the seat since 2005, four years before John Bercow MP became the Speaker.

Their prospective parliamentary candidate is Sarah Lowes.

Sarah Lowes is a life-long Lib Dem voter who joined the party in May 2015, after the then leader Nick Clegg’s resignation speech inspired her to become an activist rather than an armchair supporter.

However, this has now been superseded by events. Today, Sarah Lowes took the decision to stand down in accordance with the convention that the main political parties do not oppose the Speaker.

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A couple of voices of sanity in the current maelstrom of insanity

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, yesterday answered a question from an MP concerning whether Donald Trump would be invited to address MPs in Parliament if and when he pays his state visit in the UK.

A modicum of research reveals that Bercow gave the only reasonable answer he could: that he would be opposed to such an invitation (can you imagine many MPs turning up to meekly listen to The Donald?). He enlarged that answer with entirely proper reasoning. He emphasised that he spoke for the House of Commons only, that he was only one of three “key holders” of Westminster Hall and of the Royal Gallery. He said, quite rightly, that such an invite is an “earned honour” seldom accorded – not an automatic right. If you look at the list of people who have addressed parliament in Westminster Hall, it is very short. The list of people doing such addresses elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster is somewhat longer. However, I don’t see either George Bushes on the list, for example. Or John F Kennedy (though he was perhaps not President long enough). Not even Dwight D Eisenhower addressed Parliament during his two terms – and he was regarded with vast reverence in this country.

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Greg Mulholland’s row with the Speaker – the obvious solution

Yesterday, Leeds MP Greg Mulholland tried to ask a question about the availability of a drug to treat a constituent’s rare disease – and was prevented from doing so by the Speaker for being “long-winded.”  ITV News has the story:

Speaker John Bercow had warned Mr Mulholland to be quick in his statement but after referring to missed decision dates given to families by health authorities, the Lib Dem was told to resume his seat.

Six-year-old Sam Brown from Otley. Sam, who has Morquio syndrome needs Vimazim treatment, mentioned by Mr Mulholland, but NHS England deferred a decision over whether to provide the drug, then last week announced it would wait for guidance from NICE, the health body consulting on the drug.

There is a video of the exchange on the ITV site and, to be honest, I’m quite annoyed with John Bercow. Greg was no more long-winded than many of the other questions that day – Hansard has the details so you can see for yourself. All Greg had said before he was interrupted was this:

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The Liberal Democrats who stood up for John Bercow

I asked the other day why on earth the Liberal Democrats had indulged the Tories’ last minute motion on the re-election of the Speaker which brought this Parliament to a rather undignified end.

We still haven’t had any real justification as to why we allowed this to take that leap from William Hague’s head to Commons Order paper, but I thought that you would be interested to read the Liberal Democrat interventions in the debate, both of which were against the motion.

David Heath’s remarks were very brief but to the point:

Further to the point of order, Mr Speaker. There is, of course, another way. The Leader of the House could withdraw the motion— I have to say that although I would always support a secret ballot, I very much dislike the way in which this matter has been brought before the House today.

For Duncan Hames, it was all about the potential consequences of such a rule change and how that would affect the balance of power between Speaker, House and the Executive:

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Why have Liberal Democrats indulged the Tories’ Bercow bashing?

By any standards, the last minute motion to change the rules on Speaker election is pure bad manners. Filed with less than a day’s notice when many MPs will already have left Westminster, it asks MPs to approve a secret ballot on the re-election of the Speaker. Up until now, MPs have voted in the traditional manner. The election of a Speaker when there is a vacancy is already conducted by secret ballot.

The actual proposal itself is not unreasonable, for consistency’s sake and was recommended by the Commons Procedure Committee as the Guardian article linked to above says:

Tory and Lib Dem sources rejected Labour claims they had acted in an underhand way. They said they were following the convention of allowing MPs to vote on the recommendations of the procedure committee. But Nick Clegg, who is spending the day in his Sheffield Hallam constituency after his weekly LBC phone-in, will not be present for the vote.

So when did the Procedure Committee make that recommendation? I looked through their recent report which suggested revisions to Commons standing orders and it wasn’t in there. There was stuff about elections and by-elections for Deputy Speakers and even a change in lunch breaks on Thursdays in public bill committees (up till now the poor little loves might go hungry – how cruel), but nothing about Speaker elections or re-elections. You have to go back almost five years, to 2010, to find that recommendation. There has been more than enough time to have that vote, so why leave it till the last possible moment?

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Also tagged | 54 Comments

European Arrest Warrant: I’m a sceptic (but not a Eurosceptic)

As I write, the House of Commons is debating the European Arrest Warrant (EAW).

Well, sort of. In fact, the Speaker, John Bercow, has already pointed out that “there will not today be a vote on the specific matter of membership of the European arrest warrant”. But Home Secretary Theresa May and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling say there will. In the Tories’ Alice in Wonderland world, when they use the word vote it means just what they choose it to mean, neither more nor less.

As with any debate involving Europe, there is a danger of it being used as …

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MPs and expenses: return to an unwelcome past

Oh dear:

MPs are trying to block publication of material which could show they are renting their taxpayer-funded homes to each other, it is claimed.

Expenses watchdog The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) is considering an Freedom

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Opinion: David Laws takes another step on the road to redemption

Last night, despite the rather unpleasant efforts of a handful of Labour backbenchers to throw stones from an already rather damaged greenhouse, the House of Commons overwhelmingly passed a motion proposing six members to form the Joint Committee to scrutinise the draft Financial Services Bill.

Usually, such motions are passed without a murmur, especially as the nominees are proposed by the various political parties. However, on this occasion, the presence of David Laws, the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, drew the ire of, amongst others, Thomas Docherty, the Labour MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, and John Mann, …

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Want a copy of Parliament’s rules? That’ll be £268.40

Erskine May is the House of Commons rulebook – but if you want to get a copy, it’ll cost you £268.40 from a commercial publisher, and Parliament has said no to a request for a free electronic copy from a member of the public.

The origins are typical of the British constitution. Erskine May started off as a unofficial guide written by an assistant librarian in the House of Commons. Over time it established itself as the reference work and is now treated just like an official rule book. But unlike Hansard – another Parliamentary publication which originated with …

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Also tagged | 21 Comments

PMQs: Prime Minister’s tennis

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Daily View 2×2: 18 May 2010

Good morning and welcome to today’s Daily View on International Museum Day.

On this day in 1991, Britain’s first astronaut, 27-year-old Helen Sharman,  blasted into orbit on the Soviet Soyuz TM-12 space capsule. I wonder if I should mention that Ms Sharman is from Sheffield?

Sixty years ago, twelve nations agreed the aims and objectives for the permanent organisation of NATO. The founder members at the launch at Lancaster House in London were: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United States.  Later that year, Dwight D Eisenhower was appointed Nato’s first supreme commander.

 

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BNP announce Parliamentary Candidate for Buckingham

The BNP has announced its Buckingham candidate for the 2010 General Election, adding another candidate to a slate which already includes UKIP, John Stevens (former Lib Dem member and before that, Conservative MEP,) Patrick Phillips (“conservatively minded” Independent candidate) and Geoff Howard (former Conservative and UKIP member).

With the three main parties refraining from standing against the Speaker, it will be interesting to see how the vote is split by the minor parties and independents, all of whom have or have had right-wing leanings.

The Liberal Democrats have chosen a spokesperson rather than a candidate.

From the Buckingham Advertiser:

The British National

Posted in General Election and News | Also tagged , , , , , and | 9 Comments

How much of a battle does Bercow face in Buckingham?

Further developments in Buckingham, John Bercow MP’s constituency, where convention dictates that other parties don’t put up a candidate against the incumbent Speaker:

UKIP is looking forward to a large donation, whilst claiming that fundraising on Bercow’s behalf breaches Parliamentary rules. Meanwhile, Buckingham Liberal Democrats announce their plan for the General Election.

The Times reports that a UKIP member from Buckingham has complained to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards after receiving a letter from fundraising team “The Friends of Speaker Bercow”:

has written to the commissioner expressing concern that The Friends of Speaker Bercow may be breaching parliamentary rules by

Posted in General Election and News | Also tagged , , and | 23 Comments

Why shouldn’t Buckingham Liberal Democrats join in?

The accepted wisdom is that it is “protocol” not to oppose the Speaker. Yet there are plenty of examples that this is simply not true – Selwyn Lloyd, for one, was opposed, and there are other examples (and we are not talking pre-war or the mists of time).

What is going on in Buckingham is extraordinary. The Speaker is unpopular with his local party – not just a large block of Conservative MPs in Parliament – and his wife has shot through the Labour Party hoops and jumped other hurdles to go on the list of approved …

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Speaker Bercow tells Nick: no inquiry into MPs’ ‘flipping’ or CGT evasion

Two weeks ago, Nick Clegg wrote to Sir Thomas Legg – in the wake of Sir Thomas’s decision to recommend MPs repay public money if they had been found to have overclaimed expenses for cleaning and gardening – asking that he examine the most serious allegations levelled against MPs:

… when your inquiry was first announced, I think most people expected the worst offences such as flipping to come under the toughest scrutiny. The letters sent this week, however, appear not to focus on these offences. If your review is to be seen as credible it must expose every single one of those MPs who claimed for a non-existent mortgage or ‘flipped’ their second homes purely for personal gain, some of whom then went on to avoid Capital Gains Tax. Some of these MPs appear to have made tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds in profits with the help of taxpayer subsidies. They must be exposed and these illegitimate profits returned.

Today Nick got his answer, but not the one he – or the public – would have hoped for. Sir Thomas passed Nick’s letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, to reply. Here’s what he said (with a big hat-tip to The Times’s Sam Coates):

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Nick Clegg – “Parliament houses a shooting gallery but not a creche”

Today witnessed the appearance of Nick Clegg (as well as Gordon Brown and David Cameron) in front of the Speaker’s Conference, chaired by the new Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.

The issue this special committee has been asked to look at is: “Consider, and make recommendations for rectifying, the disparity between the representation of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in the House of Commons and their representation in the UK population at large”.

You can watch Nick give his views and answer questions on the Parliament website here (his part begins about 48 …

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Daily View 2×2: 18 September 2009

2 big stories

Star Wars – the end?
The Guardian and the Times both lead with the news that President Barack Obama has decided to scrap US plans to build missile shields in Poland and the Czech Republic. This is seen by Republicans as an attempt to “appease” the Kremlin, which had objected that a missile shield so close to Russia’s borders would threaten its own defences.

President Obama justified the change of plan by citing new intelligence that shows Iran’s long-range missile programme to be far less advanced than previously thought. Instead of being close to developing missiles capable of

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Standing against the Speaker: never mind the politics, what about the voters?

There’s been plenty of interesting Lib Dem internet chatter asking whether – now Ukip’s soon-to-be-ex-leader Nigel Farage is breaching normal convention and standing against the incumbent Speaker, Tory MP John Bercow, in Buckingham – the Lib Dems should follow suit.

Opinion is divided. Some say we absolutely shouldn’t – here, for instance, is Stephen Glenn:

… while the ‘convention’ for not standing against a sitting speaker is not as set in stone as some people may have you believe, it is none the less a precedent symbolising the apolitical nature of the role. Indeed it seems to be one, that even if contested, the constituents seem to back up as not one speaker seeking election since 1969 has polled less than 50% of the vote.

And here’s the Wit and Wisdom blog:

Liberal Democrats wanting to be taken seriously should give the Speaker a clear run at the next election as is the convention.

Meanwhile Mark Littlewood at Liberal Vision is more open to the idea that the Lib Dems should stand a candidate to oppose Speaker Bercow and Mr Farage:

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Speaker accuses whips of leaking information

Speaker John Bercow certainly didn’t flinch from his accusations of leaking against whips. As I Spy Strangers reports:

The Speaker of the House of Commons has told MPs that neither he nor his staff leaked details of his statement to the House on proposals to elect his deputies.

John Bercow said that he had consulted with government and opposition whips before he made his statement last Thursday…

The Speaker told MPs that

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Bercow: deputy speakers should be elected

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, today told the House that his new deputy speakers should be elected by MPs.

From the BBC:

In a statement, he told MPs he wanted two deputy speakers from the government side and one from the opposition side.

He is believed to be concerned that following his own election by secret ballot last month the three deputies should also be elected.

Mr Bercow indicated he had consulted party whips, who normally appoint the deputy speakers, about the plan.

It is thought that Mr Bercow is looking to implement the changes – or

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Congratulations Speaker Bercow

Final result announced 8.30 pm:

John Bercow: 322
Sir George Young: 271

Read Speaker Bercow’s manifesto HERE.

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Gidley and Carmichael back Bercow for Speaker

Two Lib Dem MPs have declared who they’re supporting in the forthcoming election for the next Speaker of the House of Commons. Sandra Gidley and Alistair Carmichael are co-signatories to a letter published in today’s Guardian extolling the virtues of Conservative MP John Bercow:

With the standing of parliament at an all time low, the next Speaker will take office in unprecedented circumstances (Speaker candidates call for end to prime minister’s questions, 16 June). Reform is desperately needed as the “old” way of doing things does not carry the confidence of those we serve – too many of our traditions,

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Four confirmed candidates for Speaker so far

News from the Hansard Society via email:

The Hansard Society will be holding a hustings meeting for potential candidates for the role of Speaker of the House of Commons. Potential candidates will have the opportunity to make a statement and answer questions both from MPs and those submitted by members of the public via the Hansard Society website.

We have invited potential candidates for the position of Speaker to participate. Since the position will still be fluid then, it is not our aim to be exclusive.  Confirmed participants in the Hansard Society Speaker Hustings thus far include:

  • Alan Beith MP
  • John

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