There has just been another series of pointed exchanges between government backbenchers and the Speaker over procedure. Following the Sunday papers and the Boles plan released earlier today, several Tory MPs sought reassurance on procedure from John Bercow. Bercow was strikingly unwilling to give it. He approvingly quoted Willie Whitelaw’s dictum that bridges are best crossed when you come to them.
If Bercow’s intention was to wind up the government frontbench and Tory MPs, he certainly succeeded. When Bercow gave a lengthy reply to Kevin Brennan’s point of order about how people who act as the lickspittles of the whips’ don’t get much respect, one minister heckled. Bercow then went off on one about how he didn’t care what the government frontbench thought about how he was responding. Later on Bercow issued a thinly veiled attack on those Tory MPs who were making points of order, denouncing those acting as ‘agents of the executive’.
Bercow was keen to stress how he’d see any MP who wanted to talk to him. But to those worried he might be about to indulge in more procedural chicanery, Bercow’s answers would only have increased their concerns.