Speaker Bercow has told MPs that they do deserve a vote on the government’s plan to delay its Brexit deal vote. He told the Commons this afternoon that ‘any courteous, respectful and mature environment, allowing the House to have its say on the matter would be the right and obvious course to take’. We will find out more details on the procedural aspects of the government’s plan later when Andrea Leadsom gives a statement.
Bercow’s statement shows why Labour were so keen to protect him as Speaker when his job was in peril over the bullying and harassment scandal. He was always likely to be an interventionist speaker over Brexit, and in this instance, he is making life as uncomfortable for the government as he possibly can.
A vote on the delay would be handy for Jeremy Corbyn, as it means he can badge it as a confidence matter, thereby allowing Labour to bypass a formal vote of no confidence in the government. As I reported last week, the Opposition does not want to do this, as it realises that it would lose such a vote, thereby making a general election recede as a prospect. The Labour leadership has been using its demand for an election as a means of deflecting calls for a second referendum. Today, Vince Cable and MPs from minor parties including Plaid Cymru pressed Corbyn on this matter, saying they would support a vote of no confidence. The reason they bothered to highlight this is that they know the Labour leader doesn’t want to hold such a vote.
It isn’t just Labour MPs who will be pleased with Bercow’s intervention, though. A number of eurosceptic Tory MPs want to be able to show their displeasure – either with May or with her deal – by voting against the delay. At present, their best opportunity to do so is merely to ask an angry question in the debate taking place in the Chamber at the moment.