The Government has suffered a bitter defeat after ministers launched an ill-fated, last-minute attempt to change the rules for electing the House of Commons Speaker.
The proposal was voted down after an extraordinary parliamentary debate which saw The Speaker John Bercow and other MPs visibly choke back tears.
The plan, moved by William Hague as the last act of his parliamentary career, would have seen the Speaker elected by secret ballot in future.
The change would likely have undermined Mr Bercow, who is unpopular with some sections of parliament – including senior Tory figures behind the decision to propose the change.
Key parliamentarians were only notified about the vote last night, a fact which drew sharp criticism.
The most poignant moment of the debate was the speech by Conservative MP Charles Walker, the chair of Parliament’s Procedure Committee and a key player in the drama.
Misty-eyed, he told the House how he had not been informed of the vote until yesterday evening – despite having fondly attended Mr Hague’s leaving drinks and spoken at length to his special advisor.
“I have been played as a fool and when I go home tonight I will look in the mirror and see an honourable fool looking back at me,” he said, his voice trembling.
“I would much rather be an honourable fool, Mr Speaker, in this and any other matter, than a clever man.”
Mr Walker received a standing ovation from the green benches, a highly unusual event in the House of Commons.
The Speaker himself, usually unflustered, could be visibly seen to choking back tears as he listened to the supportive speech.
After the vote, which the opposition won 228 to 202, Labour MPs packed the opposition benches and rapturously applauded the result. Some could be seen jumping into the air for joy.
Shouts of 'resign', directed the chief whip Michael Gove, could be heard from the press gallery.
As the result was announced The Speaker himself licked his lips and stared at the Government benches, nodding.
Critics of the Speaker were not silenced for long after the vote.
"What is revealing is the clerks & other staff who are disappointed with the result. It is a reflection of the lack of loyalty he inspires," tweeted Conservative MP Michael Fabricant.Reuse content