Troublesome Lib-Dems taste wrath of Speaker's tongue to chastise childish Lib Dems

The Chancellor's Speech
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The Independent Online
Like a bunch of unruly children, a group of Liberal Democrats yesterday were given a verbal spanking by the Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, for their "crass, childish" pranks on Budget Day.

The Liberal Democrats incurred the wrath of Miss Boothroyd by staging a demonstration in the Commons to stake their claim to the seats traditionally reserved for the Opposition troublemakers.

Clearly very annoyed, Miss Boothroyd told them: "I have never known such grown-up people behave in such a crass, childish manner. It is time MPs grew up. I am ashamed of this morning's procedure."

Having given them a stinging rebuke, she ordered five Liberal Democrats to "remove themselves. Right now - while I am on my feet". Like children being told to get to the back of the class, they rose without a word, and did as she said.

For the past 18 years, the front bench below the gangway has been occupied by Labour campaign group members. It is a prime spot to heckle ministers, but it was vacated after the election when the Labour awkward squad crossed the floor to the government side.

Since then, there has been a running feud between Liberal Democrats and some Tory MPs over the right to sit on the bench.

The Liberal Democrat chief whip, Paul Tyler, issued a statement yesterday claiming that the Speaker had upheld his party's claim to the troublemakers' bench. "Following the Speaker's ruling about the benches below the gangway, we will expect to occupy this front bench as a matter of course," he said.

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