Ber­cow may as well have had ‘B ******* to Brexit’ pinned on his puffed-up chest

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By DAVID MOR­RIS TORY MP FOR MORE­CAMBE AND LUNESDALE

THERE are pre­cious few oc­ca­sions that can ever jus­tify an MP chal­leng­ing the Com­mons Speaker. But last week I sadly found my­self do­ing just that. I still believe I was right to do so. ‘Pub­lish it!’ I yelled at John Ber­cow.

I was chal­leng­ing our Re­main-vot­ing Speaker to come clean on what ad­vice he had re­ceived from the Com­mons Clerk be­fore de­cid­ing to trash es­tab­lished pro­ce­dure and al­low a Brexit-de­fy­ing vote to be taken.

I felt my rights had been eroded, along with those of my con­stituents and fel­low MPs, what­ever their po­lit­i­cal colour.

The Com­mons had yet to re­ceive a writ­ten clar­i­fi­ca­tion from Mr Ber­cow, though he pro­claimed he acted in our best in­ter­ests by grant­ing the amend­ment tabled by Do­minic Grieve.

Mr Ber­cow was flout­ing time­honoured Com­mons prece­dents by cre­at­ing a ‘one-off’ rule, aban­don­ing con­sti­tu­tional con­ven­tion and com­pro­mis­ing his role as the im­par­tial Speaker. He also ig­nored ex­pert ad­vice from Com­mons Clerk Sir David Nat­zler, who knows these rules in­ti­mately.

Why? Well, it ap­pears that Mr Ber­cow wants to do ev­ery­thing he can to thwart the re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum by en­abling an­other hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat for the Gov­ern­ment – with­out any warn­ing.

Mr Ber­cow de­nies claims that his car dis­plays a ‘B ****** s to Brexit’

sticker, say­ing the ve­hi­cle be­longs to his wife. But it might as well be stuck firmly to his puffed-up chest on this oc­ca­sion.

The Speaker is there to serve the elected Com­mons with­out prej­u­dice. He should not over­ride House busi­ness and act as our master. It’s like a cricket um­pire who, half­way through the game, in­vents a new method of dis­missal to suit the los­ing side – es­pe­cially if the bats­man hap­pens to be Theresa May.

The Prime Min­is­ter is try­ing to se­cure a work­able Brexit agree­ment in the full spirit of what the peo­ple called for in the ref­er­en­dum. We all know the po­larised emo­tions and de­bates, but we as a na­tion voted Leave and that must be hon­oured and de­liv­ered.

It is what Mrs May is com­mit­ted to do­ing and now is the time for the Speaker to up­hold the set pro­ce­dures of the Com­mons and not per­form a ‘one-off’ to suit him­self. His ac­tions have done lit­tle to bring the coun­try to­gether and will be cat­a­strophic if they are re­peated.

This is a man who shed his Rightwing prin­ci­ples as a Tory MP to win the post of Speaker in 2009 largely on the back of Labour votes.

Judg­ing from the cheers from the Op­po­si­tion benches last week, it ap­peared he was re­pay­ing those Labour votes.

By tra­di­tion, Speak­ers give up their party af­fil­i­a­tion to serve the whole House. At this im­por­tant time for the na­tion, he should not only be apo­lit­i­cal, but also bring the MPs to­gether.

Mr Ber­cow in­di­cated in 2009 that he would serve for nine years. His self-im­posed time has ex­pired. Most of my col­leagues feel he has be­trayed his his­toric of­fice and that the Prime Min­is­ter should deny him the tra­di­tional peer­age of­fered to re­tir­ing Speak­ers. He can hardly ob­ject to break­ing prece­dent af­ter lec­tur­ing us last week that if past prac­tice was never over­turned, noth­ing would ever change.

By those same stan­dards of cre­at­ing a ‘one-off’, if Mr Ber­cow should again seek to stand as MP for Buck­ing­ham, he should be de­nied the tra­di­tional sit­ting Speaker’s priv­i­lege of not fac­ing can­di­dates from the main par­ties.

Should Mr Ber­cow seek to bend the rules again this week to ap­pear to serve his own or the Op­po­si­tion’s agenda, I will have no hes­i­ta­tion in stand­ing up and protest­ing in the strong­est man­ner.

I swore to up­hold the wishes of my com­mu­nity and the peo­ple of our na­tion; a re­peat of the Speaker’s ac­tions will be seen as vi­o­la­tion of my con­stituents’ rights.

But this time I sus­pect many Tory col­leagues will stand with me to up­hold our pre­cious democ­racy and hon­our the in­ter­ests of the peo­ple who voted for Brexit.

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