Aftershocks of an explosion in the House: Impeach the Speaker!

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The Independent Online

Virtually all the men on the Government front bench yesterday were wearing red ties and blue shirts. Stephen Timms was the exception, wearing a blue tie and a red shirt (but then, he's from the Treasury).

Virtually all the men on the Government front bench yesterday were wearing red ties and blue shirts. Stephen Timms was the exception, wearing a blue tie and a red shirt (but then, he's from the Treasury).

Jack Straw's tie was revolutionary red; Mr Mandelson's was Coco Chanel red; Mr Hoon's was a camouflage red for hiding in a pond of dried blood (essential kit in Mr Hoon's Ministry of Defence); and John Prescott's was the variegated red of a diseased pizza (the Deputy Prime Minister is from Hull).

What any of that means we must leave to colour therapists, semioticians and bruisers who punch people on the nose.

But let that not detain us. We have weightier matters to consider. We must all now consider calling for the impeachment of the Speaker. Yes. In what may prove to be a fruitless attempt to keep ahead of public opinion, The Sketch is calling for the Speaker to be impeached.

Why? There's no need to get technical, but at this stage of the parliamentary cycle, the practice would be useful.

Alan Duncan, a Tory, stood up at the end of Prime Minister's questions with a point of order. It was a simple, serious point, elaborately phrased (an unfair combination to put in front of Speaker Martin): "In order that no precedent might be set, may I ask you to advise the House the basis on which, and under which Standing Order this might occur: that when a member has not said anything on the record of the House in violation of its procedures or Standing Orders, he might be evicted from it?"

Low laughter greeted this and a rising mutter of anticipation. The Speaker moved only to lean forward from his throne. He was looking for help. One of the bewigged Clerks of the House leant back for an eight-second conference. Mr Duncan's point referred to the incident a couple of weeks ago when a Tory, John Butterfill, had been privately addressing the chair and was chucked out of the House with the words: "The honourable gentleman will take himself from the chamber!" The aftershocks of this are still shocking.

The Speaker finally rose and began with murmured, Hibernian prevarications. After a while, what he was saying became audible:

"But what I will ensure is, I will ensure good order in this house," he said. "There will be occasions when perhaps a request to an honourable member might leave the chamber in spite of the fact he has not broken any rule but for the sake of good order I will ask him to perhaps leave but there again that's a request and it's up to the honourable gentleman or lady to accept that particular request."

Really? When Julian Lewis was told yesterday to be quiet by the Speaker, might he have declined that particular request?

There's a more serious charge. "For the sake of good order" a member may be asked to leave?

The only honest reading of this is that the Speaker himself was about to breach good order. What? Was the Speaker going to bottle Mr Butterfill from the throne? He must be impeached! If, however, the Speaker was saying that he never ordered Mr Butterfill to leave the chamber, there we have a flat lie. Impeach him!

Once we've got used to the idea of impeachment, we might get another go with Lord Falconer, the Dome's sole shareholder, who may yet be nailed in the House for trading while insolvent.

Not that Charlie Falconer would mind overmuch. Surely all responsible middle-class parents have the foresight to put their children's names down for a place in a good private prison?

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