Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Bercow & McLoughlin At War

Scroll in to 22.16.30

There was a very ugly altercation last night between Speaker Bercow and the Government Chief Whip, Patrick McLoughlin. It arose after ten pm when the Speaker appeared to help Labour in objecting to a Bill. The Labour whip had shouted "object" at the wrong point and the Speaker then motioned to the whip to shout it at the correct point. Patrick McLoughlin leapt from his seat and said something inaudible to the Speaker, clearly of a not wholly complimentary nature, and then made as if to leave the chamber. The Speaker admonished him in an extremely aggressive manner as you will see if you watch the video. Click HERE and scroll in to 22.16.30.

There were a lot of MPs in the chamber at the time, particularly from the 2005 intake, and I am told it was the first time they had witnessed such a scene. One of them wondered to me if the Speaker would have helped a Conservative whip in such a situation.

It is very unhealthy for a Speaker to be constantly at odds with one of the parties. The ill feeling is becoming apparent all too often. On the Speaker's side he seems to come down far heavier on Tory MPs than others - which is also being remarked upon by Labour MPs, but it is also unhealthy to have the Prime Minister making jokes at the Speaker's expense.

I fear this may all end in tears.


Unknown said...

I think he does a fine job personally.

Unknown said...

I'm not sure the Speaker was that far off base (although the man's a berk, there's no denying that). I mean, he certainly over-reacted a bit, but I don't think he did very much wrong.

I regularly see him motion, or at least intimate to the whips on both sides when they're supposed to move something. He nods to each side when he expects them to shout on a vote, too. I don't think I've seen him do it so clearly as in that video before, but the opposition had made their intent to object very clear. He was just telling them when the right place to do it was.

It wasn't very grown up of Patrick McLoughlin to say something and then attempt to storm off in a huff either, though.

I think Bercow just went a bit too far trying to help someone object in the right place.

It ill behoves Parliament that the Speaker seems to not have everyone's support. I suppose when he tries to stand up for the legislature over the executive it could be viewed as partisan, which is really very damaging. MPs reelected him earlier this year and it's not even like they didn't know what they were getting. It's a shame they can't all just get along...

Unsworth said...

Bercow is plainly biased, and has been so since his elevation to the Chair. Worse, he is determined to 'modernise' the House of Commons and the role of the Speaker. Quite what he means by 'modernise' is anyone's guess. He could have made a very good start by getting a severe grip of the expenses issues, but has carefully avoided doing so.

His casting aside of tradition is typical of his overweening sense of importance. Most other Speakers (setting aside the cretinous and odious Martin) have recognised that the Office of Speaker is infinitely more important than themselves - and have acted accordingly.

For example, all this bollocks about getting schoochildren into the Chamber to 'debate' is superficial dross. If Bercow was serious about this he'd be advocating that all schoolchildren should do this. It's yet another publicity stunt for Bercow which does sod-all for the vast majority of schoolchildren.

Then there's the ongoing problem of Mrs Speaker and her constant interventions, let alone her direct involvement in such matters as providing creches for the privileged children of MPs (and her own, naturally) and usage of Parliamentary police to act as mechanics for her personal transport and so on - all at our expense. A political failure, she offers nothing to the nation yet demands everything. Her position owes absolutely everything to her husband's fortunes, yet people and organisations like the BBC pander to her every whim.

These two are clearly in it for what they can get out of it. They are undignified, self-seeking, self-centred, left-wing, barbaric freeloaders.

Unknown said...

Storm in a teacup...

Short man in big chair shouts "Order!" ten times at pompous fat man.

Brian said...

Bercow appears more and more like a supply teacher out of his depth with a bolshy form at an undistinguished prep school. It's like Waugh's Decline and Fall without the humour.

Nick said...

What a little coward McLoughlin is. Running off out of the Chamber as soon as he makes a snide comment.

"Extremely aggressive"? Come off it Iain. You must have lived a very sheltered life if you truly believe that based on the clip. You should YouTube some videos of Betty Boothroyd - far more stern than Bercow!

Genie said...

Man he's tedious. Could he speak any more slowly if he tried!

Twig said...

He knows who his friends are.

Alister said...

The problem occurs if he is seen to favour one side over the other. The problem for the rest of us observing is that we do not hear what what was said that the speaker objected to. Now how the speaker handled it could have been better, but he came across as I'm in charge I'm in charge don't forget I'm in charge.

Unknown said...

well said, unworth

Alexander said...

Did you see Dopey makes a quick glance at the camera when, at the end of the rant and the start of thinking 'My God, what have I done', he thinks to himself "this has all been recorded. Doh!'

rob's uncle said...

Here is Hansard’s report of what was said:

‘ . . Motion made, That, at the sitting on Thursday 9 December, the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Motion in the name of Secretary Vince Cable relating to Higher Education Higher Amounts not later than three hours after the start of proceedings on the Motion; such Questions shall include the Questions on any Amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; proceedings may continue after the moment of interruption; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply. -(Sir George Young.)
Hon. Members: Object.
Mr Speaker: I was about to say that the Question is as on the Order Paper, as many as are of that opinion say Aye.
Hon. Members: Aye.
Hon. Members: Object.
Mr Speaker: Objection taken. [ Interruption. ] Order. The Government Chief Whip has absolutely no business whatsoever shouting from a sedentary position. He- [ Interruption. ] Order. The right hon. Gentleman will remain in the Chamber. He has absolutely no business scurrying out of the Chamber. [ Interruption. ] Order. The Chief Whip has absolutely no business-
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): We all saw you.
Mr Speaker: Order. The right hon. Gentleman has no business behaving in that way. The objection has been registered, and it has been registered in a perfectly proper way. I thought it proper to put the Question. The objection had been registered, and it was registered clearly. The right hon. Gentleman has nothing about which to complain.’


It seems to me that McLoughlin behaved boorishly and Speaker Bercow did nothing wrong. What do you think he did wrong?

Anonymous said...

The joke was at an event when everyone makes jokes at everyone's and their own expense.

Bercow is biased. Mr Unsworth makes good points.

strapworld said...

Whose tears? certainly not mine. The man is insufferable, long winded and a bore.

He has come a long way since he was the secretary of the Monday Club when Harvey Proctor was involved.

Anonymous said...

As Speaker Bercow was originally elected as a Conservative, it would be far more worrying if he was seen, or appeared, to be consistently favouring the Conservative Party. I can say this as a longer-standing member of that party.

OldSlaughter said...

He is the embodiment of New Labour's contempt for the spirit of parliamentary traditions and procedures.

DespairingLiberal said...

It wasn't all that "aggressive" as Iain puts it - McLoughlin (my MP btw) was being a bit of a prat. The Speaker was just politely assisting an inexperienced Member with the process.

On the more general issue of bias, I've watched Bercow closely in a number of extended sessions and at PMQs and it seems to me he goes out of his way to show even-handedness and to be pleasant to backbenchers in particular from all sides.

It's a shame Iain is back on this anti-Bercow campaign as he's actually a pretty good speaker, certainly loads better than his predecessor, although of course that wasn't difficult.

Iain Dale said...

I have no anti Bercow campaign. Indeed, I am not sure how you contrue this as an anti Bercow post. I was merely highlighting what happened (rather unprecedented in my view) and repeating what people are saying to me.

IfYouTickleUs said...

The man is a prick, no question about that but then he also chairs a house of blown up kids. Where other than in school would you poke fun at the height or otherwise of someone else? And when it is the prime minister no less poking fun at the speaker it says a lot more about DC and politics in this country than about JC. Can you imagine Bush or Obama doing that to Nancy Pelosi? Or Margaret Thatcher or even Gordon Brown saying that in public? Sounds more like Berlusconi or Putin to me.

David Boothroyd said...

Actually the Labour whip shouted 'Object!' at a perfectly acceptable time. There is no rule that says that objection can only be taken while the Speaker is 'collecting the voices'; objecting once the motion is moved is fine. Why Bercow insisted on calling a vote and then prompting the objection to be shouted a second time is a mystery as there is no rule requiring it.

Patrick McLoughlin may have been attacking Bercow's incompetence rather than his partisanship; Bercow can hardly be called partisan on the basis of this incident since the objection was clearly going to happen anyway.

Not a sheep said...

if the Conservative party had had the balls they could have elected a new Speaker in this parliament. Unfortunately they didn't and so are reaping the 'rewards' of having a seemingly Labour patsy in the Speaker's chair.

P. Stable said...

"I have no anti Bercow campaign. Indeed, I am not sure how you contrue this as an anti Bercow post. I was merely highlighting what happened (rather unprecedented in my view) and repeating what people are saying to me."

Ah, the old #Justsaying defence.

If you were "merely highlighting what happened" why the need for the pejorative language? Bercow is "extremely aggressive" while McLoughlin is merely "not wholly complimentary".

Anti-Bercow whispers from nameless sources (an excellent sign that you're drifting into MSM territory).

An opinion that includes an un-verified statement of 'fact' ("It is very unhealthy for a Speaker to be constantly at odds with one of the parties").

You sound like a fan of a dodgy football team who blames the ref every time his side loses. I can't imagine why that might be, it's not as if you support... oh.

David said...

Cameron shouldn't have backed Bercow in the Buckingham election.

webofevil said...

He isn't "favouring" anyone in this clip. The Labour Front Bench shouts "Object", thus registering their objection. They do it a little early but that doesn't remotely negate it. He reads the question out anyway so that it's done properly, a nod to convention but a mere formality as all the procedure at this point is already down in print. Then he invites them to say it again, but that's merely for form -- he doesn't really need to hear them say "Object" again, as he now knows that they object. This stuff -- the mild botching of procedure and prompting of MPs to say the right things at the right time -- goes on at both ends of Parliament all the time, and you don't have to have worked there for long to know that that's how it works.

So, while the Tories may see Bercow as a traitor, for the Government Chief Whip to throw his toys out of the pram over this non-incident makes him a right Hulture Minister.

RonLiddle said...

Skip to 19:30:20 if you really want to see an example of someone completely out of their depth.

Wait around for the responses too.

Unknown said...

So, the Chief Whip insults the Speaker because the Speaker reminded the Labour whip that he wasn't supposed to shout the word "Object" until the correct moment?

I'd be pretty irritated too. McLoughlin acted like a bit of a Culture Secretary and deserved to be put in his place.

Nicholas said...

Whatever McLoughlin might have done wrong, the sheer vituperation of Bercow's manner was qute astonishing.

golden_balls said...

The Conservatives can't get rid of another speaker! especially not while in government.

unsworth said

"Bercow is plainly biased, and has been so since his elevation to the Chair"

do you have any evidence of this and please don't offer McLoughlin he's a prat at the best of times.

rob's uncle said...

From Hansard, Dec 07: ‘ . . Clive Efford (Eltham, Labour): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you know, I am a shy and retiring Back-Bench Member of Parliament, and I am becoming increasingly distressed by the aggressive attitude of Government Members, particularly as we approach Thursday's vote on tuition fees. I wonder whether you have received an apology, Mr Speaker, for the Chief Whip's behaviour in the Chamber last night, as some of us feel that such an apology should be forthcoming.

John Bercow (Speaker): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. The House of Commons can be an excitable place, and in his 13 years here, the hon. Gentleman has witnessed examples of that. I am satisfied, however, that in respect of the business of House motion, no procedural irregularity whatever occurred. Discourtesy in the House is to be deprecated. Defiance of the Chair is totally unacceptable, and when it takes place, I make it clear in no uncertain terms that it should not take place again. I think that any Member, no matter whether that person be the newest entrant or one of the most senior office holders, will recognise that, in the cold light of day, that is the way it has to be.’

Unknown said...

I remeber seeing a judge conduct a case with a similar demeanour, bending over backwards for one side, and behaving appallingly towards counsel for the other side. In courts it is seldom that happens, and when it does, it just leaves the spectator wondering what is going on.

I do not recall talk of previous speakers such as Boothroyd, Thomas or Weatherill ever behaving like that. They were not soft touches either.

Bercow looks like the problem.

Unknown said...

There's more to this story, Iain. Earlier, the Government Whips had managed to restrict the main debate to three hours.
The Speaker is understood to have advised the Labour whips on the procedure that they could use to get around this and allow a longer debate.
The Chief Whip was overheard having a fairly furious altercation with colleagues about Bercow's behaviour.