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26 March 2015

Watch: the extraordinary speech that defeated the government’s bid to oust the Speaker

Charles Walker, Chair of the Procedure Committee, delivered the most memorable speech of an hour-long debate to oust Speaker Bercow.

By harry harry

The government has been defeated in its bid to oust John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons. Their motion fell short by 26 votes, with 202 MPs voting “Aye” and 228 MPs voting “No”. The vote appears to have split largely along party lines.

Early last night the government tabled a motion that would introduce a secret ballot for the re-election of Bercow when parliament meets after the election. Every future speaker will be elected by secret ballot – a rule introduced in 2009 – but this will only apply to future Speakers, not Bercow.

As things stand, MPs would have to vote in a public division if they wanted to dethrone Bercow. This makes it less likely they will try to oust him, as some may fear repercussions if they try to and fail.

This is what the government was trying to change. But today’s debate became as much about the way the government was trying to do so as the motion itself. And no critic was more memorable than Charles Walker, Head of the House Procedure Committee. (Via the BBC.)

Walker is the head of the committee which debates House procedure. His committee’s report on this issue was ignored by the government for the first 1,784 days of this parliament, but suddenly taken up on its last.

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Here’s text of Walker’s speech:

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Can I just say this: how you treat people in this place is important.

This week I went to the Leader of the House’s leaving drinks. I spent 20 minutes saying goodbye to his special adviser yesterday. I went into his private office and was passed by the Deputy Leader of the House yesterday, all of whom would have been aware of what they were proposing to do. I also had a number of friendly chats with our Chief Whip yesterday.

And yet I find out at 6.30 last night that you– that this House– the Leader of this House is bringing forward my report.

Mr Speaker, I have been played as a fool. And when I go home tonight I will see an honourable fool looking back at me. And I would much rather be an honourable fool Mr Speaker – in this and any other matter – than a clever man.

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