Warning bells would have gone off early in the Speaker’s head when he heard Michael Fabricant use the date of his accession to his Speaker’s throne. The bells would have become clamorous at the first “but”, and turned into sirens at the words “no longer than nine years”.
“Point of Order, Mr Speaker. You may recall back on 22 June 2009 you were speaking before Parliament and you were talking about Speaker Onslow who was in office for more than 30 years but you said that if you were elected to Parliament, you have given your commitment, Mr Speaker, to serve no longer than nine years in total. And I just wondered – ”
“As has just been pointed out to me by the Acting Clerk whom I know the honourable gentleman rightly respects, this is not a point of order. I’ve nothing to add and we’ll leave it there . . . .”
Not a point of order, so sit down?
Members get up on points of order to have a chat with the Speaker, to wish him happy birthday, to praise him for his wise and intelligent chairing. He can listen to that indefinitely. Here comes a chance to confirm on the record that he will serve for no longer than nine years – as promised – and he cuts the questioner off.
This is starting to firm up whispers Guido hears that Bercow has no plans to stand down after nine years, and that his intention is to serve the whole of the next Parliament.
Fabricant tweeted: “I thought it was rather cowardly the way the Speaker blamed the Acting Clerk for cutting me off.”
Did the Clerk spontaneously advise the Speaker this wasn’t a point of order?
Or was he prompted to do so by the Speaker?
Or did he in fact offer the advice at all?
Guido has a call in to Acting Clerk David Natzler to seek the answer to these interesting questions…