GRIEVE AND BER­COW MET DAY BE­FORE VOTE

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Glen Owen PO­LIT­I­CAL ED­I­TOR

OUR front page rev­e­la­tion that Do­minic Grieve se­cretly met John Ber­cow just hours be­fore the Speaker al­lowed his killer amend­ment will add to the sense among Brex­i­teers that Mr Ber­cow is on a per­sonal mis­sion to thwart the UK’s de­par­ture from the EU.

And it will in­crease the pres­sure on Bea­cons­field MP Grieve from his lo­cal as­so­ci­a­tion to stand down – with one mem­ber telling this news­pa­per last night he would ‘hurl rot­ten toma­toes at him’ if he tried to run for elec­tion again.

Seven­teen Tory rebels, in­clud­ing Mr Grieve, joined Labour, the SNP and the Lib­eral Democrats to de­feat the Gov­ern­ment on the Grieve amend­ment by 308 votes to 297 on Wed­nes­day – Mrs May’s sec­ond Com­mons de­feat in 24 hours.

It means the Prime Min­is­ter will be forced to ta­ble a mo­tion set­ting out her Brexit ‘Plan B’ within three sit­ting days of the ex­pected re­jec­tion of her deal on Tues­day.

Out­raged pro-Brexit MPs who ac­cused Mr Ber­cow of over­rid­ing the ad­vice of his of­fi­cials – and ig­nor­ing his duty to be im­par­tial – will be in­fu­ri­ated by the ap­pear­ance of ‘col­lu­sion’ be­tween the two men.

Mr Grieve, who has de­scribed a No Deal Brexit as ‘na­tional sui­cide’, last night ad­mit­ted vis­it­ing Mr Ber­cow in his Com­mons apart­ment on the eve of the drama, but de­nied hav­ing ‘sub­orned’ the Speaker into ac­cept­ing his amend­ment.

The for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral re­fused to say whether the two men had dis­cussed how his con­tro­ver­sial move would be han­dled in the

‘If he stands again, I’ll hurl toma­toes at him’

Com­mons. He said: ‘He was aware of the mo­tion but I don’t dis­cuss pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions.

‘I of­ten speak to the Speaker about all sorts of things. We’re fel­low Buck­ing­hamshire MPs. But I am not in the busi­ness of sub­orn­ing Speak­ers. They make up their own minds. I tabled my amend­ment with­out speak­ing to the Speaker.

‘How the Speaker de­cided to ap­proach the amend­ment is a mat­ter for him.’

Mr Grieve’s anti-Brexit cam­paign­ing has alien­ated many mem­bers in his lo­cal as­so­ci­a­tion.

One said last night that chair­man San­tokh Ch­hokar had been ‘bom­barded’ with let­ters of com­plaint.

He added: ‘We don’t want him to stay as our MP. If he tries to stand again I would per­son­ally hurl rot­ten toma­toes at him.’

Asked if he had con­fi­dence in Mr Grieve, Mr Ch­hokar said all as­so­ci­a­tion mat­ters were pri­vate.

Shortly af­ter the vote, Mr Grieve was in­volved in a fu­ri­ous bust-up with Tory vice-chair­man Chris Philp. Af­ter Mr Philp ac­cused him of be­ing ‘ir­re­spon­si­ble’ for tabling the amend­ment, a shaken Mr Grieve protested: ‘I am not chang­ing the law of the land, I am chang­ing pro­ce­dure.’

Mr Ber­cow’s de­ci­sion to al­low the amend­ment also caused an an­gry row with the Gov­ern­ment’s Chief Whip Ju­lian Smith.

Mr Smith con­fronted the Speaker in his chair and told him that his be­hav­iour was ‘to­tally out of or­der’. He said: ‘You are over­turn­ing prece­dent, de­fy­ing the ad­vice of the Clerk of the House and try­ing to over­turn the ref­er­en­dum re­sult.’

Mr Ber­cow re­sponded by say­ing that he would not be ‘bul­lied’ by Mr Smith.

Mr Grieve’s lo­cal op­po­nents talk openly about him ‘re­tir­ing’ to his hol­i­day home in Brit­tany.

The spa­cious modern house is si­t­u­ated five min­utes out­side the fish­ing vil­lage of Lanil­dut.

Neigh­bour Aude Guiller­mit said Mr Grieve and his fam­ily were there over the Christ­mas break. ‘I spoke to them and Do­minic said that “times were dif­fi­cult for Bri­tain and the Con­ser­va­tive Party”. Do­minic’s mother was French and he is a bilin­gual English-French speaker. He is equally at ease in ei­ther lan­guage.

‘When Do­minic is here, he spends a lot of time ca­noe­ing in the es­tu­ary and at sea, and he is also a very keen diver.’

An­other neigh­bour, He­lene Jaouen, said: ‘He speaks French flu­ently with­out an ac­cent. He could be taken for a French­man.’

Mr Grieve said he was un­aware of any calls by lo­cal Bea­cons­field Tory as­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers for him to be de­s­e­lected over his ac­tions last week and de­nied that he plans to stand down at the next Elec­tion.

A spokesman for Mr Ber­cow con­firmed he met Mr Grieve on Tues­day. She de­clined to say what was dis­cussed, adding: ‘Meet­ings with par­lia­men­tar­i­ans are pri­vate and we do not com­ment on them.’

But she in­sisted that de­ci­sions on amend­ments were made ‘on the day of the busi­ness in ques­tion and re­leased or an­nounced that day’.

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