Well, after months of Parliament appearing boring, tired and without things to discuss, the zombie seems to have woken up. MPs are currently in uproar in the Chamber over William Hague’s proposal to make the re-election of the Speaker at the start of the Parliament a secret ballot.
Naturally, those who really dislike Bercow are very happy with the proposal, but it’s not just Labour MPs who have expressed their distaste for what’s going on. Passionate supporters of Parliament as an institution, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, have criticised the move as one that undermines the House. Rees-Mogg called this ‘jiggery-pokery’ motivated by grudges against Bercow. It was not presented in the usual way at Business Statement last week and instead was snuck in at the very last minute last night. Tory MPs were only sent a text message around 6pm last night confirming that the procedure motion they were being required to stay behind for was about the secret ballot on the Speaker.
This might have seemed a clever move at the time, but generally when you try to do something ‘clever’ in Parliament, you need to make sure you really are being clever, rather than clumsy. This move by Hague looks more like the sort of clumsiness that led to the row over the European Arrest Warrant, and indeed the row over the Speaker’s attempt to appoint Carol Mills as Clerk of the Commons. It is an attempt to mess around with Parliament, and therefore it has enraged many MPs in the same way as those previous rows did.
What the ‘clever’ people behind this vote seem to have failed to have realised is that respect for Parliament comes far higher in the hierarchy for most MPs even than their personal dislike of John Bercow – or indeed their own feelings about David Cameron. There are many good arguments for a secret ballot on the re-election of the Speaker, but the handling of this debate does not seem to be advancing them.
MPs will vote on this shortly. What a strange end to a Parliament that has been crawling along for a good long while: it is now ending in uproar.