Bercow’s bloody nose
Speaker at risk after sparking SNP walkout during PMQs
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’