Wednesday 8 December 2010

How Speaker Bercow cost Nick Clegg two hours of pain

The bust up between Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlin and John Bercow on Monday night (video below courtesy of The Telegraph) was all about the Government’s attempt to limit tomorrow’s debate on tuition fees to three hours.

The Government had put down a motion to achieve that end and Labour MPs wanting to object to it shouted “object” at the wrong time – a few seconds early.

If Bercow hadn’t encouraged then moments later to shout “object” again, the motion would have passed and the debate been limited.

Interestingly, last night the ‘three hour limit’ motion was on the order paper again but, when given the opportunity, the Government whip declined to move it.

Today we find another motion is down to be moved at about 7pm. But this time the motion limits the tuition fees debate to five hours.

That suggests that after the Mcloughlin/Bercow incident negotiations may have taken place and the Government been forced to concede a further two hours on the debate – two extra hours of excruciating discussion for Nick Clegg and his Lib Dem MPs.

Chatting earlier, a Labour MP argued that instead of sticking to rigid rules Bercow used his ‘common sense’ to interpret them – he knew Labour wanted to object, everyone else knew Labour wanted to object, they had signalled their objection and therefore Bercow took the objection.

But then again you might argue that as a direct result of Bercow’s intervention the Government has been put at disadvantage. As one colleague put it: “The Labour objection was outside the rules. If you are not going to obey the rules, why bother having them?”


Anonymous said...

When will the debate start?

Anonymous said...

Is this another one of these stupid old customes... everyone has to shout object at exactly the right time, whilst wearing a top hat and sucking their thumbs?

If so Bercow was right to take the objection. What is the point of having these kind of rules? None. Get rid of them. Move that idiotic parliament into the 19th century.

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