The tar­tan mist came down in a conga line of crazy cross­ness

Daily Mail - - News -

FoRE­Go­ING their usual sunny op­ti­mism, the en­tire Scots Nat con­tin­gent at West­min­ster stomped out of PMQs, stab­bing an­gry fin­gers at the Lon­don air and yelling – un­til their ton­sils all but dan­gled out­side their gnash­ers – as they did so. one out, all out! The SNP’s leader here, Ian Black­ford, had just been booted out by Speaker Ber­cow for re­fus­ing to ac­cept the au­thor­ity of the Chair. Up and off they went, every SNP Mem­ber in the Cham­ber fol­low­ing one an­other in file to­wards the dou­ble doors. It was a conga line of crazy cross­ness. The old tar­tan mist had come down.

‘*$&!*%!!’ they screamed. Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh SW) gave a dis­oblig­ing ges­ture to the Speaker. An­gus MacNeil (Western Isles) and Tommy Shep­pard (Edinburgh E) huffed and puffed, swing­ing shoul­ders like pub bounc­ers af­ter trou­ble. Springy-footed Mhairi Black (Pais­ley & Ren­frew­shire S), in train­ing shoes and punk-rock trousers, moved so close to Con­ser­va­tive MPs it seemed she was go­ing to nut ’em. The back of the conga line was brought up by a grey-haired, soberly- suited MP who rather lacked his clan’s molten ag­gres­sion. He set­tled for ex­tend­ing a pudgy hand and giv­ing a shy lit­tle wave good­bye.

Up in the Chair, Speaker Ber­cow gup­py­fish gasped, his voice fail­ing. ‘Don’t tell me what the pro­ce­dures are!’ he had croaked. Shades of the poor, late Michael Martin, who near the end of his Speak­er­ship, as his au­thor­ity with­ered in sim­i­lar fash­ion, was re­duced to bawl­ing ‘Don’t you tell me how to do my job!’.

The trou­ble had started af­ter an ex­change be­tween Theresa May and Mr Black­ford. The lat­ter was un­happy that the pre­vi­ous day’s time- lim­ited Brexit de­bate had not in­cluded a spe­cific dis­cus­sion about Scot­tish de­vo­lu­tion.

Af­ter Mrs May gave what he felt was an un­sat­is­fac­tory re­ply, Mr Black­ford an­nounced his in­ten­tion to pro­pose that the House im­me­di­ately go into pri­vate ses­sion.

This is an ob­scure par­lia­men­tary wheeze used as a way of caus­ing a hic­cup in pro­ceed­ings and thus gain­ing at­ten­tion.

We should not be en­tirely shocked if the whole protest was planned. Mr Ber­cow re­fused to ac­cept Mr Black­ford’s le­git­i­mate de­mand for an in­stant vote. Mr Black­ford re­mained on his feet. ‘Sit down, young man,’ bawled Ber­cow. Young man, in­deed! Black­ford is older than the Squeaker. ‘ No!’ shouted some SNP voices. Greatly in­censed, they were clap­ping Mr Black­ford.

WHENMr Black­ford re­fused to re­sume his seat, Ber­cow red- carded him. This meant he had to leave the par­lia­men­tary premises for the rest of the day, with­out pay.

Ir­re­spon­si­ble of me, prob­a­bly, but I do love a walk­out. It caused may­hem with PMQs (which is these days not worth rever­ing) and it cre­ated a stir, which is what politi­cians are surely meant to do. Here were the SNP, who so of­ten dis­dain Don­ald Trump, suc­cumb­ing to Trumpian histri­on­ics. Good for them.

Up in the vis­i­tors’ gallery, a del­e­ga­tion from the Ukrainian par­lia­ment stared down, bog­gle-eyed. ‘Good grief­ski,’ they pos­si­bly thought, ‘and we thought oUR democ­racy was chaotic!’ The Tory Chief Whip was by now crouch­ing be­side the Clerk of the House, whose hair was askew.

Speaker Ber­cow flailed un­ex­pect­edly in these wa­ters. He nor­mally prides him­self on know­ing every ar­cane pro­ce­dural gam­bit but this seemed to tor­pedo him. Come his big­gest test, he froze.

Later, af­ter re­cov­er­ing his wits, Mr Ber­cow dis­missed the walk­out as a ‘stunt’. The last time we had this sort of ca­per was a decade ago when Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems flounced out. They were cross that they were be­ing de­nied a ref­er­en­dum on our mem­ber­ship of the EU. Times change. Maybe the Speak­er­ship should, too.

Amid all this rhubar­bery, in the gallery op­po­site me, sat a cou­ple with an in­fant. Care­fully, and with great ten­der­ness, they passed the baby to a young woman with them who had learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties.

While the noise from be­low raged, I found my­self trans­fixed by the look of com­plete won­der and hap­pi­ness as this young woman held the tiny child. Par­lia­ment sel­dom felt so mar­ginal.

Off they go: SNP MPs walk out dur­ing Prime Min­is­ter’s Ques­tions yes­ter­day as their Com­mons leader Ian Black­ford is ex­pelled

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