Bercow Selects Soubry Amendment for Debate

Bercow has called just three amendments to be debated and voted on today. Which will come as a small relief to everyone with Valentine’s plans tonight…

The specific wording of the Government’s motion itself has drawn the ire of the ERG and Remainers alike, as it means MPs would in effect be endorsing the Spelman amendment against no deal as well as the Brady amendment calling for an alternative to the backstop, although it would be purely symbolic. The ERG are likely to abstain although Guido understands that various reports that they have already come to a firm decision are slightly “premature”…

Guido gives you a quick rundown of what today’s amendments are:

  • A (Jeremy Corbyn): Fairly pointless Labour frontbench amendment calling for the Government to move another motion by 27 February. Which they have already committed to…
  • I (Ian Blackford): SNP amendment with Lib Dem support calling for the Government to immediately begin negotiations with the EU to extend Article 50. Looks like they already have been
  • E (Anna Soubry): Cross-party amendment from the usual Remainer suspects – calls on the Government to publish the most recent official Cabinet briefing document on the implications of a no-deal Brexit. Will be the closest vote but it won’t be legally binding…

Bercow sparing the People’s Vote campaign’s blushes for today by not selecting any of the no-hoper second referendum amendments…

Brazen Bercow Insists He Will “Help the House Decide” Which Way Brexit Goes

John Bercow has given a brazen interview to CNN unapologetically defending his support for “minority, dissident voices” fighting Brexit and his right to “help the House decide” which way the Brexit process goes, before declaring without a hint of irony that “sometimes the Speaker’s role is just to stand up for the institution of the House of Commons and the principle of Parliamentary democracy”. Overruling the clerks to force an amendment through for political reasons against the rules is a strange way of standing up for that institution…

Incredibly, Bercow also goes on a shameless rant about how “if the Speaker is the sort of person who’s going to be cowed or intimidated by a ministerial rant… that person isn’t fit to be Speaker. I hope I always treat people with respect…” This coming from a man with an extensive track record of bullying and intimidating his own staff who was found to be at the heart of Parliament’s bullying culture by the independent Cox Report. He only needs to look in the mirror to see what someone who isn’t fit to be Speaker looks like…

Bercow Selects Graham Brady’s Amendment

After much speculation as to whether he would choose to deliberately ignore it, John Bercow has decided to call Graham Brady’s amendment on modifying the Irish backstop, as well as all the other major amendments that were expected including Yvette Cooper’s Brexit blocker. Even Bercow didn’t have the temerity not to call such a pivotal amendment – and one with Government support…

This is the order the amendments will be voted on, starting at 7pm:

  • (a) Jeremy Corbyn – calls on the PM to rule out no deal while, predictably, keeping all options on the table
  • (o) Ian Blackford – notes that the SNP don’t like Brexit, calls for no deal to be ruled out and Article 50 extended
  • (g) Dominic Grieve – suspends normal Parliamentary procedure on six dates in February and March allowing MPs to hijack Brexit
  • (b) Yvette Cooper – suspends normal Parliamentary procedure on 5th February to allow MPs to bring a Brexit-blocking Bill in
  • (j) Rachel Reeves – calls on the PM to seek an extension to Article 50
  • (i) Caroline Spelman – notes that Parliament rejects leaving without a deal
  • (n) Graham Brady – calls for the Northern Ireland backstop to be replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border

Labour have so far indicated that they will back Grieve, Reeves and Spelman as well as Cooper. All of which are aimed at delaying and frustrating Brexit, the People’s Vote are even running sponsored ads on Twitter promoting them…

However, of all the amendments, only Grieve and Cooper have any legal effect as they would actively change the Standing Orders of the House, upending centuries of precedent. All the others, including Brady, are only statements of the Commons’ preferences. Brexiteers are not committing to back May’s deal by voting for Brady, but they will be bolstering the country’s negotiating position…

Government Entitled to Ask Queen Not to Give Assent to Brexit Wreckers’ Bills

Devastating argument from Policy Exchange this morning. Sir Stephen Laws QC – who was until 2012 the Government’s most senior lawyer on legislative and constitutional matters – says don’t assume that MPs could engineer a change to the law to postpone or cancel Brexit without persuading Government to acquiesce and participate in securing the change.

Attempting to change the law without the Government’s participation, he argues, could jeopardise fundamental constitutional principles based on centuries of history, especially if the Speaker dispenses with or ignores a rule that gives Government complete control over increases to public expenditure.

Sir Stephen Writes:

“If the Speaker chose to allow this rule to be dispensed with or ignored, that could have unpredictable, and potentially horrific, constitutional consequences. It could raise a question whether the Government would be entitled or might feel required to reassert its constitutional veto by advising the Queen not to grant Royal Assent to the Bill.

How should the Monarch react to such advice? The answer is not straightforward and the prospect of it needing to be considered in a real life political crisis is unthinkably awful. It is a sacred duty of all UK politicians not to involve the Monarch in politics. They have a constitutional responsibility to resolve difficulties between themselves in accordance with the rules, and so as not to call on the ultimate referee.”

If the Speaker and Dominic Grieve are going to vandalise the constitution and overturn established parliamentary conventions, don’t expect the government to just roll over. The Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will be studying this argument closely as no doubt will the Brexit sympathetic Queen. Bercow is only the Prince of Parliament, though he might not want to believe, the Queen still outranks him constitutionally. Grieve isn’t as clever as he thinks he is…

Leadsom Outwits Bercow and Grieve on Brexit ‘Plan B’

Dominic Grieve and John Bercow’s attempts to force the Government into a corner have fallen flat thanks to a loophole which allows the Government to avoid another humiliating defeat just three (working) days after the last one. Andrea Leadsom confirmed that the Government would lay its motion on its Brexit ‘next steps’ on Monday as required by Grieve’s rogue amendment, but that the debate and vote on it would not be held until the following Tuesday 29th. Backbenchers who have worked with Grieve on amendments before privately whisper that his drafting skills are not as tight as they are made out to be…

Leadsom also announced that the Government would not be bringing any more Brexit legislation back to the Commons for the foreseeable future, including the Trade Bill and the Immigration Bill. No legislation, nothing for Remainers to attach hostile amendments to…

Bercow Ends May’s Last Hope In Amendment Selection

John Bercow has slapped down May’s hopes of winning over sceptical backbenchers with Andrew Murrison’s amendment, by not sdelecting it to be voted on. The four he has selected instead are:

  • Jeremy Corbyn Rejects the deal because it does not meet Labour’s criteria, including a customs union and strong single market relationship. Says government should “pursue every option” for avoiding no-deal or leaving on the terms of May’s deal.
  • Sir Edward Leigh States that a permanent backstop would constitute a change in circumstances compared to those in the Withdrawal Agreement and that this would give the UK the right to withdraw from it. Asks the government to confirm it would do so if this was the case.
  • John Baron Also says the deal should only be approved if the UK has the right to exit the backstop without the agreement of the EU.
  • Ian Blackford Rejects the deal, citing opposition from the devolved assemblies, and calls for an extension of Article 50.

These amendments will be voted on from 7pm. If, as expected, none of them pass, then the we can expect the meaningful vote to take place at 8pm, with the result at around 8:15. Get your popcorn ready…

Former NI Assembly Speaker Calls for Bercow to “Seriously Consider His Position”

Former Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly Willie Hay has told BBC Radio Ulster that Bercow has lost the trust of many in Parliament and is no longer seen to be acting impartially. Lord Hay then called on the Speaker to “consider his position.” His is an authoritative voice. Bercow has clearly abandoned any pretence of impartiality and those who continue to defend him are doing so for their own political interests…

Leadsom’s Plan To Get Rid Of “Annoying Little Creature”

Andrea Leadsom got a chance to present an award to who she considers to be the ‘Best Villain’ on ITV’s Peston last night. She awarded it to “an incredibly annoying little creature, that squeaks a lot and has found a place in the corridor outside my office, but I have a plan to get rid of it.”

She went on to clarify that she was not in fact talking about the Speaker (whose office is very close to Leadsom’s) but of a mouse in her office. Priceless.

Boothroyd: Bercow’s Behaviour “Disgusting”, “Absolute and Utter Disgrace”

Bercow’s brazen behaviour has not just been infuriating Tory MPs, earlier today the highly respected former Speaker Baroness Boothroyd was overheard in the corridors of Parliament reportedly telling a senior Tory MP that Bercow’s actions were “disgusting” and an “absolute and utter disgrace”. Guido’s well-placed source says the esteemed Baroness looked visibly shocked at the events unfolding…

One Tory MP is adamant that several pages of what looked to be Parliamentary guidance were removed from the desk in the Commons and taken away during the lengthy Points of Order session where Bercow was repeatedly challenged. Whatever they were, we will never know now…

Bercow Jeered by MPs

The row over Bercow’s decision to overrule his clerks and Parliamentary precedent to select Dominic Grieve’s amendment has triggered a barrage of points of order from furious MPs which is still ongoing half an hour after the end of PMQs. And is far more entertaining…

ERG Deputy Chair Mark Francois asked a particularly pointed question resulting in cheers from MPs and jeers for Bercow. Bercow knows he can continue to act with impunity as long as Remainers are happy to keep turning a blind eye to his behaviour…

Bercow Overrules Parliamentary Clerks In Desperate Bid To Stop Brexit

In an unprecedented move, John Bercow has chosen to overrule the advice of his clerks, selecting a Dominic Grieve amendment that forces the Government to hold rolling votes very three days following a defeat of the meaningful vote. Developing…

Bercow is behaving as outrageously as Guido predicted.

UPDATE: Grieve confirms his amendment has been selected saying,

“It is eminently sensible and I hope the Government will accept it. This solidifies and emphasises the key role of Parliament. It is going to be essential in dealing with Brexit.”

By applauding Bercow’s constitutional sabotage and defiance of the advice of his clerks, Grieve has revealed himself to be a far cry from the defender of the constitution he likes to paint himself as. Just as Brexiteers suspected, his high-minded talk of principle and the constitution was just for convenience’s sake…

Bercow Could Thwart Brexit if the Meaningful Vote is Defeated

Like most of you Guido has tried to put thoughts of Brexit away for Christmas, nevertheless something besides brussels sprouts has been nagging at him, which, whilst the news flow is slow can be explored at length. Labour remainers have of late turned a blind eye to Bercow‘s bullying, mistreatment of staff and gender specific language for one reason, they believe he will be an ally in thwarting Brexit. He has considerable leeway to do so…

The common argument is that although Parliament is sovereign, if the Government holds its nerve there is nothing opponents to Brexit can do to stop the UK leaving the EU on WTO terms. However, there are many things Parliament can do to get its way:

A Contempt Motion
If the House of Commons votes on a non-binding motion to extend or revoke Article 50, and the Government choses to simply shrug its shoulders and ignore the instruction, the Speaker could choose to hold the Prime Minister in contempt of Parliament. How realistic is it for the Government to repeatedly ignore the will of Parliament in terms of repeated contempt motions?

Amendments in Scope
Opponents of Brexit will table amendments to the meaningful vote motion on a second referendum, membership of the Customs Unions or extending or revoking Article 50. Although these votes would not be binding on the Government, John Bercow could use the votes as a demonstration of the will of the House of Commons. This could embolden the Speaker to be even more flexible about the amendments he deems to be in scope of Brexit legislation. So for example the Trade Bill, Immigration Bill or Agriculture Bill could all be amended to make the Act conditional on their being a second referendum. It’s been argued by some that the Government could simply pull these Bills. However, this legislation has a real-world purpose to help the country prepare for leaving. The immigration bill will end free movement. The Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill will ensure reciprocal healthcare arrangements can be in place with other countries after exit. How realistic is it for the Government to pull all its Brexit legislation?

A Humble Address
We have seen how the Speaker has colluded with the Opposition frontbench to use the humble address and other parliamentary mechanisms for party political purposes. A Humble Address could call on the Government to release all its information on no deal impacts, to increase pressure. There could be an attempt to stretch the power of a Humble Address – for instance requesting an extension of Article 50 or committing not to leave the EU without a deal or committing to a second referendum.

The opportunities for parliamentary opponents of Brexit in league with a Speaker who is their ally are worrying;

  • Amending the motion for the Meaningful Vote to say that the UK must leave with a deal. The Labour amendment to the Meaningful Vote requires that the UK leaves with a Withdrawal Agreement but not this Withdrawal Agreement. An amendment by Hilary Benn seeks to reject leaving without a Withdrawal Agreement, require the government to bring forward a debate on its proposed way forward, and allow MPs to table amendments to the motion the government is required to bring forward.
  • Debate triggered under s13(4) of the Withdrawal Act. Under the terms of the Withdrawal Act a loss of a meaningful vote must be followed within 21 days by the laying of a statement, and that followed by a further debate within 7 sitting days of the statement. The debate and possibly an amended motion could signal the House’s view that the UK should not leave the EU without a deal.
  • Emergency motions under Standing Order No. 24. The House could make clear in emergency debates called under Standing Order No 24 that the will of the House is that the UK should not leave without a deal or must hold a second referendum.
  • Opposition Day Debates and backbench time. The Opposition could table motions to call on the Government to take action to prevent no deal or hold a second referendum. Backbenchers could use their allocated time to table motions calling on the Government to prevent no deal.

Pro-Brexit MPs who believe the parliamentary die is set for a no deal Brexit are being complacent. The Speaker is intent on stopping that outcome.

“Gaston the Turbo-Snail” Invades Parliament

In a sure sign that Parliament is more than ready to break up for Christmas, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins informed the Commons that not only does she have the “most beautiful cat in the world” but that his name is “Gaston the Turbo-Snail”, courtesy of her four-year-old son. Somehow it’s not even the most implausible phrase that’s been uttered in Parliament recently…

UPDATE: A co-conspirator gets in touch with the surprising news that despite the name, Gaston the Turbo-Snail is in fact a female cat…

UPDATE: Guido brings you a photo of Gaston herself:

Soubry’s Searing Attack on Bercow

A furious Anna Soubry has torn into John Bercow for his handling of the “stupid woman” incident. Bercow is visibly rattled as he tries to shout down angry MPs. Is his grip finally starting to slip?

Irony Alert: Brazen Bercow Sends MPs ‘Behaviour Guide’

In a stunningly ironic move, the Speaker has decided to send all MPs a pamphlet entitled “Rules of behaviour and courtesies in the House of Commons.” In an accompanying letter he stresses that “This document should serve as a gentle reminder to longer-serving colleagues, or as a useful guide for those others who have recently started the journey on their parliamentary career.” Bercow might do well to “find the time to acquaint [himself] with the content”…

Continue reading

Leadsom on Bercow’s Impartiality

Andrea Leadsom told BBC Radio 4’s Today

“He’s made his views on Brexit on the record, and the problem with that of course is that the chair’s impartiality is absolutely essential. … He’s made his views known on Brexit… it’s a matter for him but nevertheless it’s a challenge and all colleagues need to form their own view of that.”

Bercow’s Bombshell Bollocking

Speaker John Bercow has thrown a massive spanner in the works of Theresa May’s wish to delay postpone the meaningful vote scheduled for Tuesday. Stating that communing the debate and cancelling the planned vote is “premature and inconclusive”, the Speaker pushed for the Commons to vote on whether they vote tomorrow, calling it “the right and dare I say it the obvious course to take.” The Government can technically plough on regardless, but Bercow has applied acute and piercing political pressure, especially just days after the Govt was voted in contempt of Parliament…

Bercow on Reading Guido

Despite Bercow’s office being quick to send complaints he told someone who inquired if he had seen our story from this morning

“Reading Guido is not a priority of mine.”

Another unhappy reader…

Bercow: ‘A Second Referendum is Fundamentally Undemocratic’

One belief that unites government officials, Cabinet ministers and even the most ardent Brexiteers is that the Speaker, John Bercow, is doing his utmost to frustrate Brexit. The next few weeks will likely see him use the discretion of the Speaker’s office to favour every legislative means to hinder the government. When he was under pressure over his bullying, senior Labour figures openly said the same. Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said we “do need to have all hands on deck at the moment… I think this is absolutely not the time to be changing speaker… We don’t know, for example, with regard to Brexit, what is going to happen.” Former Labour foreign secretary Margaret Beckett went further, saying “the constitutional future of this country… trumps bad behaviour”. Effectively giving him carte blanche to do what he liked so long as he was against Brexit.

Parliamentary machinations around the meaningful vote and the process of making legislative progress towards Brexit give Bercow a lot of leeway. Leeway that the government fears will be used against them to facilitate a second referendum. Yet after the referendum he said that would be undemocratic!

This is an extract from a letter he sent to a constituent the month after the referendum:

I appreciate your disappointment with the result — a sentiment shared by many others across the country. The reality of the situation, however, is that the vote to leave the EU exceeded the vote to remain by over one million. It is very difficult to argue with such a clear statement from the British people.

The referendum served to gauge the views of the country, although the Prime Minister has made abundantly clear throughout the whole process that he would view the result as an instruction from the British people. My understanding is that that is also the stance of his potential successors on the Government benches, of the Government as a whole and of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition. Having asked the public for their verdict, it is now for political leaders to give effect to their will.

Over 33.5 million people cast a vote last week which equates to about 72% of the electorate. Turnout at this level has not been seen since the 1992 General Election —widely seen as the apex in terms of voter turnout in recent years. It is difficult to argue that turnout was too low and that the overall result was not convincing. No matter which side of the argument won, it was inevitable that there would be people left disappointed. That is the nature of debate, elections and referendums. It is fundamentally undemocratic to argue that the process should be re-run because the outcome was not what some people wanted.

He was right.

Download: full letter.

What Is Bercow Hiding?

Since he became speaker, John Bercow has ruled fourteen times that a topic is so sensitive it can’t even be judged by a court and must remain secret. This is done by issuing a certificate of exemption to section 34 of the Freedom of Information Act.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

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