Speaker Watch: The Evolution of the Little Prince

John Bercow’s intention of being Parliament’s “ambassador” is evolving into something grander.

Much grander.

In the chamber, his condescension towards Members has become quite princely.

In the last month:

Mr Speaker: (To Simon Burns) He’s a lucky chappy; let’s call the fellow from Chelmsford. (Note royal ‘we’).

Mr Speaker: (To Ian Paisley) Order. The hon. Gentleman has already had one go. His appetite ought to have been satisfied for now. He seems to be a hungry caterpillar, but he will have to wait. Never mind.

Mr Speaker: I call the aviation Minister no less, Mr Robert Goodwill.

Mr Speaker: (To Francis Maude) Order. I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. He is plodding on to the best of his ability, but I say to him politely that . . .

Mr Speaker: I wondered whether guidance was being proffered, but it was merely an expression of interest, in the form of a genuflection, from the Clerk at the Table.

Mr Speaker: The principals are present and correct and we can proceed with questions to the Prime Minister.

This is very far from the tradition of Speaker Lenthall (who famously had tongue to speak only as the House directed).

But such comic grandeur shouldn’t blind his critics to the Speaker’s serious purposes and abilities.

There is the change to SO33 that he has – amazingly – been able to get onto the Order Paper for Thursday (it will pass).

It provides for the Speaker to select up to four amendments to the Queen’s speech and in its arcane way, represents a significant expansion of a Speaker’s ability to influence events.

The last I heard of this proposal, it was rejected by the Government’s business managers so fiercely there was no possibility it would ever get on the order paper. Now, here it is. Why? There will be more than one explanation. But it has the support of Charles Walker (the Speaker-backed chair of the Procedure committee, remember) and therefore of the Speaker.

What does it matter?

Imagine an inconclusive outcome to the next election. A minority Tory Government decides to struggle on. The first test of confidence will be the Queen’s speech. The opposition and minor parties each have an amendment, but there’s a rebel Tory amendment on Europe as well.

If that is selected, it will split the Tory party and bring down the Government before it has started. What a princely victory for the Speaker that would be.

This is the gift Andrew Lansley has made to the Speaker’s party. He thinks his legacy will be e-petitions. Perhaps it will be something else.

NB: But the law of unintended consequences is capricious. If the Speaker has the power to bring down a fragile Tory Government, they will have a real incentive to bring the Speaker down first. And that means bringing back, before the end of this Parliament, the proposal to re-elect the Speaker by secret ballot (something he and Harriet Harman were careful to avoid).




Tip offs: 0709 284 0531
team@Order-order.com

Quote of the Day

John McDonnell does a funny:

“I’m told there are a group of KGB colonels who are suing The Sun for associating themselves with us.”

Sponsors

Guidogram: Sign up

Subscribe to the most succinct 7 days a week daily email read by thousands of Westminster insiders.
Corbyn Considering Backing Customs Union Corbyn Considering Backing Customs Union
CIA Files Reveal US Spies Kept Tabs on Corbyn CIA Files Reveal US Spies Kept Tabs on Corbyn
Cabinet Sub-Committee Committed to Divergence and Taking Back Control of Laws Cabinet Sub-Committee Committed to Divergence and Taking Back Control of Laws
Stasi Files: Corbyn’s Peace Group Infiltrated by Spies Stasi Files: Corbyn’s Peace Group Infiltrated by Spies
Boris on Corbyn’s “B*llocks” Boris on Corbyn’s “B*llocks”
Read: Stasi File on Labour Party Read: Stasi File on Labour Party
LISTEN: Labour MPs Knowingly Meet Foreign Spies Every Day LISTEN: Labour MPs Knowingly Meet Foreign Spies Every Day
BBC Website Finally Reports Corbyn Spy Story… And Attacks “Press Barons” BBC Website Finally Reports Corbyn Spy Story… And Attacks “Press Barons”
Tory ERG MPs Remind May of Her Commitment to Take Back Control of Laws and Trade Tory ERG MPs Remind May of Her Commitment to Take Back Control of Laws and Trade
Aaronovitch Talking S*it Aaronovitch Talking S*it
Live In Truth: Corbyn vs Havel Live In Truth: Corbyn vs Havel
Watson Now Opposes Airing Lurid Historic Claims Against MPs Watson Now Opposes Airing Lurid Historic Claims Against MPs
Green: I Wasn’t Inappropriate to Kate Maltby Green: I Wasn’t Inappropriate to Kate Maltby
Geoff Norcott Drives Corbynistas Crazy Geoff Norcott Drives Corbynistas Crazy
BuzzFeed Runners and Riders BuzzFeed Runners and Riders
BBC Still Ignoring Agent COB Story BBC Still Ignoring Agent COB Story
Moscow’s Man in Westminster Moscow’s Man in Westminster
Waterson New Guardian Media Editor Waterson New Guardian Media Editor
Tories Demand Agent COB Faces Foreign Affairs Select Committee Tories Demand Agent COB Faces Foreign Affairs Select Committee
Vaz Reported to National Crime Agency Over His Finances Vaz Reported to National Crime Agency Over His Finances