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The Tale of the Honourable Fool

Trying to cheer myself up, I will tell a true tale of our rulers. There are spoilers, alas! But it's still worth telling. And if I get aspects wrong, I would welcome and thank corrections from those who know better of parliamentary procedure or indeed the particulars of this story; it would help me greatly in future research.

Our current speaker in the House of Commons is a controversial chap, John Bercow. Mr Bercow has embarrassing dress sense, an embarrassing wife and an embarrassing enjoyment of his position. It's not that he's bad at it, he has made some positive changes to the House of Commons, botched the occasional power play,and mortified many including the Prime Minister ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsPX0oi5Xzk ) with whom he appears to share a bond of mutual loathing.

However amusing it is, he makes enemies without need, and this flaw came back to bite him sorely in the arse last March.

Once a general election is done and a shiny new parliament opens for its first session, the standard proposal to reinstall the Speaker is made. I don't think there has ever been an incumbent speaker who has not been reinstated, it's just expected that they will lumber along yelling at the House until they're sick of the whole thing, then run away like worn out schoolmasters to the Isle of Wight.

But theoretically it can be done; if, at the proposal to reinstate the speaker, someone yells 'Object,' there would then follow a public ballot of MPs. But if parliamentary procedure was changed to make this ballot private... well, some brainiac in the teeming stews of LibdemCon thought that more MPs might be induced to vote against Little Mr Bercow, thereby unseating the hated dwarf (Somehow Bercow has become Tyrion Lannister in my story; I do apologise.)

It would be a very great mortification for him, and would mean changing parliamentary procedure against the recommendation of the Procedures Committee. How the word 'committee' deadens a story! I should call them 'the mindful barons,' it sounds much more interesting.

Now the mindful barons had considered the usefulness of a secret ballot for the speaker's election years before. They concluded against it, but understood that MPs might want to discuss the issue, and were specific in saying that if such a debate was ever needed, it should be held at prime time, not'tucked away on a thursday.'

But it was indeed going to be tucked away on a thursday and quite a thursday at that; the motion was declared late - I think MPs spoke of becoming aware of it the day before - to be discussed on the last day of parliament before the elections, when many Labour MPs would be going home to enjoy a last few hours cattle-rustling... and their absence mattered, for Bercow was comparatively popular among them.

Michael Gove, Tory Chief Whip, had often been chided by the speaker and now flexed his muscles. He ordered a three line whip for party MPs to attend a briefing on another matter, just prior to the vote. They would all be there, and having little time to discuss the issue, with many members of the house missing, most of them were expected to follow the lead of William Hague who tabled the motion. Bercow stalled, allowing 3 separate *urgent questions to be asked while Labourites scrabbled to get back to parliament. David Cameron strode into the Houses of Parliament saying that he wouldn't miss it for the world.

But John Bercow is not Caesar and these men are hardly Brutus or Cassius. For a story that so far has seemed to cast our tories as twirling moustaches of villainy, the hero is a surprising one: Conservative MP Charles Walker, Lord of the Mindful Barons, had something extraordinary to say on the matter:http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/03/26/watch-labour-mps-stand-and-applaud-tory_n_6946996.html

It is a very rare occurrence when the opposite side stand to applaud in the HoC. Charles Walker was worthy of their applause, as were those rebels who refused to be played. And the result? Bearing in mind that 'No' meant safety for John Bercow, and 'Yes,' meant he was facing the most humiliating experience of his life? In this next part, when Bercow first calls for order, a heckler shouts that he won't be saying that next month...and then:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBtFR5RkE-s

Watching his face work with emotion, watching his friend nearly weep, all that occurs to me is that though my fiance would be great in politics, I'll never suggest it again. I would happily shave the eyebrows of anyone who tried to hurt him in such a despicable way. And the Honourable Fool? Sir, I hope you will be an honourable fool all your life. Well done Mr Walker, very well done.


*http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/business/urgent-questions/


Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
tyrell
Sep. 18th, 2015 11:24 pm (UTC)
I didn't know he was so controversial (although I do remember hearing about the near-unseating).

I only read this week (with Corbyn trying the new format for PMQs where Bercow would be keeping order) that David Cameron *hates* Bercow with an absolute fiery passion and doesn't care who knows it. Which immediately makes me like the man quite a lot.
smokingboot
Sep. 19th, 2015 07:30 am (UTC)
The Feud is Legend!
Bercow has put several high ranking tories in their place and they greatly resent him for it. Maybe he enjoys it a little too much, he is certainly perceived as doing so. But then those being 'told off,' seldom call it fair!

William Hague was an idiot to let himself be used in tabling the motion - it sullied his last day as a parliamentarian, and gave Jacob Rees-Mogg to regenerate the phrase 'Jiggery-pokery!'
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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