Ber­cow’s bloody nose

Speaker at risk af­ter spark­ing SNP walk­out dur­ing PMQs

Daily Mail - - News - By Jason Groves Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

JoHN Ber­cow’s sur­vival prospects suf­fered a se­ri­ous blow yes­ter­day af­ter he or­dered the SNP’s West­min­ster leader out of the Com­mons.

A rou­tine ses­sion of Prime Min­is­ter’s Ques­tions de­scended into chaos af­ter the Speaker clashed an­grily with Ian Black­ford over claims Scot­land has been side­lined in the Brexit de­bate.

Mr Black­ford, who leads the SNP’s 35 MPs at West­min­ster, was even­tu­ally ban­ished from Par­lia­ment for the rest of the day af­ter he re­fused to sit down.

The re­main­ing SNP MPs then marched out of the Com­mons cham­ber in sol­i­dar­ity. Some, in­clud­ing fu­ture lead­er­ship hope­ful Mhairi Black, ges­tic­u­lated an­grily at Mr Ber­cow as they left. The walk­out was dis­missed as a stunt by Tory and Labour MPs.

But a rift with the SNP could prove per­ilous for Mr Ber­cow, who has re­lied on their sup­port to head off Tory at­tempts to have him re­moved.

The last mass walk­out came in 2008 when Nick Clegg led the Lib­eral Democrats out of the Com­mons in protest at the re­fusal of de­bate on the party’s pledge at the time to hold an in/out ref­er­en­dum on Bri­tain’s EU mem­ber­ship. The stunt had lit­tle im­me­di­ate im­pact but was con­sid­ered to have weak­ened sup­port for the then Speaker Michael Martin, who was forced out the fol­low­ing year.

Yes­ter­day’s row came af­ter the Gov­ern­ment cur­tailed de­bate on Tues­day night over amend­ments to the EU With­drawal Bill re­lated to de­vo­lu­tion.

Mr Black­ford used his ques­tions at PMQs to de­mand that MPs vote over sit­ting in pri­vate im­me­di­ately.

He ac­cused min­is­ters of us­ing Brexit to en­gi­neer a ‘power grab’, adding: ‘MPs from Scot­land were not given the cour­tesy even of be­ing al­lowed to de­bate the mat­ter last night. It is a demo­cratic out­rage. The peo­ple of Scot­land will not be dis­re­spected by this Par­lia­ment … I have no op­tion but to ask that this House now sit in pri­vate.’

Af­ter con­sul­ta­tion with the clerks, Mr Ber­cow told Mr Black­ford he could hold the vote im­me­di­ately. But he then with­drew the of­fer and said the vote would have to be held at the end of PMQs.

Mr Ber­cow then or­dered Mr Black­ford to sit down five times. When he re­fused, Mr Ber­cow or­dered him to leave.

The walk­out meant sev­eral SNP MPs missed their op­por­tu­nity to ques­tion the Prime Min­is­ter. SNP MPs Pete Wishart, Ste­wart Hosie and Stephen Gethins were jeered later when they slipped back into the Cham­ber to take part in a de­bate on Brexit.

A Down­ing Street source said: ‘That sort of stunt ef­fec­tively means the SNP mem­bers who were down on the or­der pa­per to ask the Prime Min­is­ter a ques­tion can’t rep­re­sent their con­stituents.’

SNP leader Nicola Stur­geon said she was ‘right be­hind’ Mr Black­ford and ac­cused West­min­ster of treat­ing Scot­land with ‘con­tempt’.

‘A demo­cratic out­rage’

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