Pro-Brexit MPs are all in a tizzy after John Bercow refused the government’s attempt to bring back the meaningful vote on its deal – a mere 48 hours after parliament had declined to give it the approval craved by Downing Street – on the grounds that parliamentary protocol clearly states that the same question cannot be put twice in the same parliamentary session.
Devoted Brexiteers Bill Cash and Peter Bone spoke up against the judgement from the backbenches, while on the frontbench, Jacob Rees-Mogg silently glowered.
But it wasn’t always thus. The ruling was hardly a surprise, as Bercow had made an identical ruling when Theresa May tried to re-run her meaningful vote on 18 March.
Bill Cash had been one of the first to speak, praising the Speaker, saying: “It seems to me that what you have said makes an enormous amount of sense, given that this has been defeated on two separate occasions. Unless there is a substantial difference, it must follow that what you have said, in a very important statement, makes an enormous amount of sense.”
Peter Bone, too, had joined the chorus, telling the Speaker: “You are correct that Erskine May [the tome which sets out parliamentary protocol] says: ‘A motion or an amendment which is the same, in substance, as a question which has been decided during a session may not be brought forward again during that same session.’ That is absolutely clear. When you allowed the second meaningful vote, your ruling was clearly a balanced decision, but Erskine May seems to be clear that it is about whether the motion is substantially changed, not whether something else has happened – that is irrelevant; it is what has happened to the motion.”
And Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was this time the man who tried to bring the vote back, announcing his intention barely quarter of an hour after the government’s defeat, was then similarly effusive, telling Bercow: “How delighted I am that you have decided to follow precedent, which is something I am greatly in favour of? Dare I say that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repented than over the 99 who are not in need of repentance.”
What can possibly have changed since 18 March? Could Bercow possibly be right when he says that all that has changed is that now the Brexiteers are on the side of the government – not parliament?
Your mole couldn’t possibly comment.