The SNP may finally be having an effect on Westminster’s rules and traditions. Ever since the 56 SNP MPs descended on Parliament they have been repeatedly told off by the Speaker of the Commons for breaking tradition by clapping in the Chamber:
‘The convention that we do not clap in this Chamber is very, very long established and widely respected, and it would be appreciated if Members showed some respect for that convention.’
Despite this, the SNP MPs have shown little regard for the rule, even going so far as to applaud Simon Burns after he told them it was against Westminster etiquette to clap.
Now the tide may be turning in favour of the Scottish Nationalists. Speaking at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, John Bercow said that even though the rule is a longstanding tradition, it could be changed if enough MPs take issue with the current convention:
‘I think my attitude to that is if the House wants to change its procedures, it can, if they vote to do so.
Could the House change the procedure and would I then be the servant of that new procedure? It could and I would.’
If the SNP do inspire a change of rules, Burns is likely to have something to say on the matter. After the Tory MP tried and failed to teach the SNP politicians about the perils of clapping, he said that if they attempted to clap again, strong words would be exchanged. ‘Clapping is deplorable, I mean it,’ he warned Mr S at the time. Steerpike looks forward to seeing how this debate pans out.