Our elite’s deranged hatred of Brexit – its treasonous reluctance to see us become an independent kingdom – took its smelliest turn yesterday when Commons Speaker Bercow resorted to that old trick of despots and cheats: if you don’t like the rules, break ’em.
And who should assist him in this splintering of precedent, this brazen bogwashing of ancient procedures? Why, Mr Hoity-Toity himself, Dominic Grieve, who for decades has given us dusty lectures about the majesty of rules-based systems.
Shortly before the day’s sitting began, Bercow jettisoned parliamentary protocol by allowing Mr Grieve (Con, Beaconsfield) to propose a damaging amendment to the already running EU Withdrawal debate.
House of Commons of Speaker John Bercow (centre) during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons in London
The Commons Clerk, who is appointed by the Queen, had told Bercow he should not do such a thing.
Bercow ignored him and let Remainer Grieve have his way. As a result, the Government’s negotiating position on Brexit is further weakened. Perhaps Bercow will soon join Mr Grieve in being made a member of the Legion d’Honneur.
His rape of centuries-old proprieties ignited an hour of remarkable rancour as MPs tore into his malign stewardship of a once-great office of the land.
Points of Order were not just made. They were bellowed. The Squeaker himself stood there, swaying only occasionally. Generally he was smarmily unmoved by the roaring protests. Couldn’t give a damn. All he wants is to screw Brexit and create a blaze of notoriety.
John Bercow (above) reacting as he speaks in the House of Commons regarding the selection for a vote of an ammendment to the Brexit withdrawl bill
We had just had a low-wattage PMQs. Points of Order began at 12.49pm and within moments the House was in surging, swelling, quivering turmoil, with Theresa May still in her place, watching aghast and amazed.
Pah, you may be tempted to say. Who cares about parliamentary procedure? But parliamentary procedure is the currency of political heft and it is becoming the weapon of Europhile oppression. Parliamentary procedure is today’s equivalent of arrows at the battlefield of Hastings. Bercow, supposedly impartial chairman of our Legislature, seems to be fighting for the nose-helmet Normans.
Brexiteer Peter Bone (Con, Wellingborough) said he had tried to submit an amendment to the debate but had been assured by the clerks that no such thing could be done. Yet Mr Grieve had been allowed to do it! Bercow claimed ignorance.
Peter Bone (pictured above) said he had tried to submit and amendment to the debate
Mr Bone slumped in his seat but in some ways he has only himself to blame. He has been one of Bercow’s past defenders. Wake up, Peter. This Speaker is viciously unbalanced, an enemy of your cause and of the referendum majority. Another Leaver, Eddie Hughes (Con, Walsall N), asked how an ‘unamendable motion could be amended’.
Bercow said it was ‘long standing practice’ that the Speaker’s judgements were never questioned by MPs. Ha! They are now, mate. ‘I am clear in my mind,’ he said, rolling his forked tongue over his teeth, ‘that I have taken the right course of action.’
With this he went into a technical passage that played such semantics, it’s a wonder the Heavens did not fling down a thunderbolt to reduce the wordy worm to a roundel of smouldering ashes. Mark Francois (Con, Rayleigh & Wickford) read the long-established rules which Bercow had broken.
Andrew Percy (pictured above) said the public would realise there was ‘a conspiracy and procedural stitch-up taking place by a Commons grossly out of touch with the referendum result’
He reminded Bercow that he claimed to be ‘a servant of this House and we have taken you at your word’.
Oh, Comrade Foolish, you would better accept the word of Faustus. On hearing further wriggling wordplay from Bercow, Mr Francois erupted: ‘That’s ridiculous! Utter sophistry!’
Bercow did what he often does and sought sanctuary in a contribution from his old boss Kenneth Clarke (Con, Brussels). What a sorry ruin Clarke is these days. Several other Bercow toadies were called. Bercow was speared by his nemesis: Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House.
She coolly asked that he publish the advice he was given by the Clerk. This earned an explosion of laughter, for the House remembered that Bercow helped force the Government to break custom and publish its legal advice on Brexit. Bercow loftily said that the Clerk’s advice to him was ‘private’.
Crispin Blunt (pictured above) said the ‘referee of our affairs is no longer neutral’
Leadsom had drawn blood, for she had made the House jeer its Speaker. Contempt for the Chair was open, ministers heckling him and even Remainer MPs relishing the spectacle of a nasty little bully receiving some payback. Feet drummed on floorboards with each fresh attack. Senior Members slapped their knees with pleasure as Bercow guppy-fished for an answer to Mrs Leadsom’s blow.
Independent-minded Andrew Percy (Con, Brigg & Goole) – who is meant to be a friend of Bercow – said the public would realise there was ‘a conspiracy and procedural stitch-up taking place by a Commons grossly out of touch with the referendum result’. Prolonged hear-hears. Bercow tried bragging that he always acted ‘diligently, conscientiously and without favour’ but no one was buying that likely tale.
As long-serving Tory moderate Crispin Blunt (Reigate) said, ‘for many of us, the referee of our affairs is no longer neutral’. He was speaking for MPs but the same will be true of the public.
When Parliament’s arbiter breaks the rules, Parliament itself becomes bent. But I think we all knew that. Westminster no longer has legislators. It has been captured by anti-democratic squatters.