Monday, 1 September 2014


MPs have returned from the long summer recess to debate the issues of the day. There was some serious debate about the very worrying situation in Iraq and the Middle East. Dennis Skinner was on form as usual suggesting that the PM should be thanking the Labour Party for preventing Government plans, just a year ago, to arm Islamic State militants so they could fight against Assad. With such important issues being debated I was surprised that the evening news reports were not about global issues but about one of the most inward looking debates about procedural issues that has made the headlines; the appointment of a civil servant the Clerk to the House.

Sir Robert Rogers the long-serving Clerk to the House has retired. He had a wide ranging role that included responsibility for ensuring parliamentary processes are followed and the running of the parliamentary estate. The speaker has a role in making the appointment and Speaker Bercow has recommended Carol Mills who currently oversees parliamentary services in the Australian parliament. Tory MPs have taken issue with this and decided to raise several of points of order and repeatedly shouted down the speaker. The speaker's job is to keep order, today some MPs it impossible.

I'm not sure of the reasons for the vitriolic reaction to this recommendation. It could be an excuse to have a go at the Speaker. Bercow, who despite being a Conservative, has upset many in his own ranks with his wide ranging reforms. He has given select committees and backbenchers real power to hold the government to account. Bercow has got into the habit of calling out individuals at PMQs with pre-planned put-downs, which would anger any unruly MP.

Women are underrepresented in the Conservative Party. The disproportionate reaction could even have been because the recommendation was that a woman should take on the role of the UK's principal constitutional adviser, a position which has been held by a man for the every one of 651 years since the post was created.

There may well be valid concerns about the recommendation but today, certain MPs behaved in a way that would be unacceptable on the first day back at any school, summing up precisely what members of the general public dislike about politics.

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