Ber­cow sat slap bang in the mid­dle, stroking his chin

Daily Mail - - Brexit In Crisis - HENRY DEEDES on an epic scene in the House

THE Speaker’s chair was like a scene from a Car­avag­gio can­vas. Ei­ther side was a whirl of flail­ing arms and con­cerned faces bathed in soft chiaroscur­o, each one try­ing des­per­ately to get their view across.

out in front, con­cerned-look­ing Clerks sat and con­ferred. at the cen­tre of it of all sat the man him­self, John ber­cow, stroking his chin and lis­ten­ing to the com­mo­tion around him.

ber­cow, slap bang in the mid­dle of drama. Just the way he likes it. The is­sue at hand was a tied vote – 310-310 – the first in the House of Com­mons since 1993 dur­ing the Maas­tricht hoo-haa.

MPs were vot­ing on whether to hold a third round of in­dica­tive votes on Mon­day as put up by Hi­lary benn (Lab, Leeds Cen­tral) to help break the brexit im­passe. bois­ter­ous Mark Fran­cois (Con, rayleigh and Wick­ford) sug­gested the de­ci­sion fall to a Peo­ple’s Vote. What a help­ful chap.

The dead­lock meant the Speaker had to cast his de­cid­ing vote. Prece­dent re­quired him to re­ject the mo­tion. Such a move could have been help­ful to the Gov­ern­ment. That’ll st­ing ber­cow. May re­quire oint­ment.

an­other knife- edge vote fol­lowed, on a bill brought by Sir oliver Letwin (Con, West Dorset) and Yvette Cooper (Lab, Nor­man­ton, Pon­te­fract and Castle­ford) forc­ing the Prime Min­is­ter to rule out a No Deal brexit, this one squeak­ing through 315-310. In other words, it was yet an­other day of brexit high drama.

Ear­lier in the day, the Prime Min­is­ter had en­dured a highly lively PMQs. The gov­ern­ment back­benches now re­sem­ble a Wild West saloon.

op­pos­ing fac­tions eye one an­other sus­pi­ciously. Such is the un­der­cur­rent of menace, you feel at any moment the scene could erupt into a chairs­mash­ing melee.

Mrs May’s de­ci­sion on Tues­day to in­vite Jeremy Cor­byn to help break the im­passe is, for most of them, the fi­nal straw. Yes­ter­day, sev­eral Tory MPs openly turned on her. Yes, they still cheered her oc­ca­sional sal­lies but through forked tongues.

With Mrs May due to meet Mr Cor­byn later that af­ter­noon, Labour’s Dear Leader chose to ig­nore brexit and fo­cus on poverty. The pair grap­pled non-com­mit­tedly in the man­ner of two age­ing prize fight­ers hold­ing out for a draw.

Nei­ther re­quired the bucket and sponge.

The Prime Min­is­ter’s real show­down came with her own party. When the Speaker called Nigel adams, the for­mer Welsh min­is­ter who had re­signed hours ear­lier, he re­ceived a hero’s wel­come.

Would he chose the oc­ca­sion to blud­geon the PM? a de­light­ful ten­sion sud­denly gripped the House. barry Gar­diner (Lab, brent North) twid­dled his neatly

man­i­cured beard. Sir Ni­cholas Soames (Con, Mid Sus­sex) gaw­ped in ea­ger an­tic­i­pa­tion. ‘Can I urge the Prime Min­is­ter to put her weight be­hind the cam­paign for stepfree ac­cess for Selby rail­way sta­tion?’ he asked.

Loud ex­hales of breath. Adams grinned and apol­o­gised for dis­ap­point­ing col­leagues by re­fus­ing to wield the dag­ger.

NOT ev­ery­one let the PM off so lightly. david Jones ( Con, Cl­wyd West) asked if it was still the Prime Min­is­ter’s opin­ion the Leader of the op­po­si­tion was un­fit to gov­ern. To her credit, Mrs May didn’t shy from the ques­tion and brought up Mr Cor­byn’s milky re­sponse to the Sal­is­bury poi­son­ing when he ap­peared to doubt rus­sia’s in­volve­ment.

Lee row­ley (Con, North East der­byshire) pon­dered what qual­i­fied Mr Cor­byn to dis­cuss Brexit when only last week Mrs May de­scribed him as ‘the big­gest threat to our stand­ing in the world, to our de­fence and to our econ­omy’. Mrs May squirmed, tamely re­spond­ing some­thing about the pub­lic want­ing politi­cians to work to­gether to find a so­lu­tion.

Grum­bles em­anated from be­hind her. ERG cor­ner was as lively as bingo night in a nurs­ing home. Ja­cob reesMogg (Con, North East Som­er­set) chat­ted con­spir­a­to­ri­ally with An­neMarie Trevelyan (Con, Ber­wick­upon-Tweed). Sir Wil­liam Cash (Con, Stone) gri­maced.

Ju­lian Lewis (Con, New For­est East) stuck his oar in. Why, he asked, after preach­ing about No deal be­ing bet­ter than a bad deal, was the PM ap­proach­ing Labour when most of her party wanted to leave next week with­out a deal? Mrs May re­sponded she had a good deal, but Lewis chose to vote against it. Good an­swer.

At the end of a lengthy ses­sion, the PM trot­ted off for her lengthy pow­wow with the Leader of the op­po­si­tion. Hardly a bar­rel of laughs, one sus­pects. But a coun­try pic­nic com­pared to her next meet­ing with her party.

I’m the main man: John Ber­cow holds court among MPs yes­ter­day

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.