The Tories last night launched an eleventh hour ambush to make it harder for John Bercow to be re-elected speaker after the General Election.
Senior Conservative figures – including David Cameron - have long harboured a grudge against their former Tory colleague who they accuse of being unfairly biased against the Government in his handling of Parliamentary business.
Normally sitting Speakers continue in their jobs after a General Election and are re-instated by acclamation of the House.
But early on Wednesday evening, after Labour MPs had already been told they could be absent from the Commons today, the Government announced a change to Parliamentary business.
They introduced a motion in the name of the Leader of the House William Hague that states that a secret ballot should be triggered if anyone shouts "object" when the standard post-election proposal to reinstall the Speaker is made.
This would allow any Tory backbencher to scupper Mr Bercow’s re-appointment and give the party time to find an alternative candidate who could beat the current speaker in a secret ballot.
Labour immediately called foul when they heard of the plan.
Shadow Commons’ leader Angela Eagle condemned the "surprise" attack.
“This is a grubby, last-minute plot in the dying hours of the Parliament to try and changes the procedures of the House,” she said.
“The Tories are trying to play politics with the speakership because they know they will not win a majority at the next election.”
Labour will now try and get its MPs – who were on a one line whip for tomorrow’s business to attend the House to defeat the Government’s motion. It is not known how the Liberal Democrats – who allowed the motion to go through will vote.
Mr Becow has long been the butt of jokes and disdain by both Tory backbenchers and senior Cabinet Ministers.
Even the Chancellor George Osborne once told a joke related to Mr Bercow’s small stature.
He recounted how one Conservative MP has earned Mr Bercow’s irritation and had been told that the speaker was not happy. To which – referring to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – he replied – “well which one is he then”.
Mr Cameron has also ridiculed the Speaker’s failure to secure an Australian woman to be the new Clerk of the House of Commons.
He told the Commons: “You went to the ends of the earth in search of the best candidate but I am glad we found the right answer right here in Britain."
The Tory plan to unseat Mr Bercow emerged in a point of order when Ms Eagle told Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle: "It's just come to my attention that the Government has tabled a motion for debate on the final day of this Parliament, with no notice whatsoever to myself as shadow leader of the House, proposing changes to the way in which the Speaker of this House is elected - procedural matters in this House, with no consultation with the Opposition, no consultation with the chair of the committee itself, for debate in only one hour tomorrow.
"Is this in order? Do you believe the procedures of this House should be bandied around in Government in this way, that we should have surprises delivered to us in this manner on the last day of the first ever fixed-term Parliament, which attempts to influence results of the first thing that will happen in the next Parliament with no chance for large numbers of people, who have no knowledge that this was happening, to participate?"
Mr Hoyle replied: "This was - rightly or wrongly, whichever the House may decide - agreed to yesterday as I understand it and as we know all business of the House is decided by the Government, not by the chair.
"So it's not a matter for the chair."Reuse content