GRIEVE AND BERCOW MET DAY BEFORE VOTE
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’.