My bashing from Betty still smarts
MPs generate much pompous hot air from both ends when they huff and puff about Parliamentary sovereignty.
But not all of them are talking out of their bottoms. It can be a powerful weapon, especially if you become a victim of it as I did.
Some years ago I fell foul of then Commons Speaker Betty Boothroyd because she objected to what I wrote. One article involved a used condom found near her chair, another booby-trapped mail to an MP and peer.
I got earbashings from the Commons Serjeant at Arms, kitted out like an upper- crust extra in Poldark. Some people would pay good money to be disciplined by a military gent wearing women’s tights and a sword but I just found it weird. Betty, now Baroness Boothroyd, ordered my detention by police and expulsion from Parliament for six weeks without a hearing or right of appeal. There were dark threats of a permanent ban to destroy my career. So much for freedom of speech.
But it wasn’t all bad. I served my exile in the Red Lion opposite Downing Street and got to spend all day in a pub. On my return MPs decked out a Commons bar in yellow ribbons, the traditional welcome home for freed hostages.
There was high-level talk of taking my case to the European Court of Human Rights. That could never work as Parliament is so beyond ECHR jurisdiction.
Even British law does not apply there, and police only operate with the Speaker’s permission.
Although I still smart at this injustice, I understand why Speakers need absolute power. John Bercow might one day have to chuck out a misbehaving PM for doing something naughtier than skipping through a wheatfield.
Reclaiming Parliament’s sovereignty from Brussels is why many Leavers voted to quit the EU. It’s at the heart of the big vote on Tuesday which will decide Theresa May’s future.
Last week was a game changer, though not entirely in a good way. Forcing the Government to reveal its Brexit legal advice by threatening it with contempt binds all future governments.
They’ll have to publish advice whenever Parliament asks, which will inhibit lawyers giving it.
And Dominic Grieve’s amendment to give Parliament the right to decide Brexit if Mrs May’s deal is voted down means trusting this ragtag rabble of MPs not to make more of a dog’s breakfast of it than the PM already has.
At least no-deal Brexit is off the table, though there may be no Brexit at all or a General Election or a second referendum.
Whatever. They’ll only ever please some of the people some of the time.
She ordered expulsion... I served my exile in the Red Lion Daventry Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris retweeted a message from Northants fire service: “Incident 15:45 False alarm - caused by a parrot impersonating the smoke alarm at a property #Daventry.” One concerned local observed: “How many times must it have gone off for the bird to learn how to mimic it?”
OBJECTED Ex-Speaker Boothroyd