Connect with us

Published

on

Throughout his life and political career, Boris Johnson has believed the rules don’t apply to him. And as he marks his second anniversary as prime minister this weekend, it seems nothing’s changed.

It was a claim first made by one of his masters at Eton. And the view was reinforced as recently as last Sunday when he tried to dodge self-isolating after coming into contact with COVID-positive Sajid Javid.

Forced into a humiliating U-turn, Mr Johnson is spending his second anniversary as PM isolating at Chequers. So no chums, political cronies or family members to celebrate with him. Or so we’re told.

Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative party leader Boris Johnson drives a Union flag-themed JCB, with the words "Get Brexit Done" inside the digger bucket, through a fake wall emblazoned with the word "GRIDLOCK", during a general election campaign event at JCB construction company in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, on December 10, 2019. - Britain will go to the polls on December 12, 2019 to vote in a pre-Christmas general election. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / POOL / AFP)
Image:
Boris Johnson won the 2019 election with a pledge to ‘get Brexit done’

But, hey, there are worse places to self-isolate than the PM’s 16th century grace and favour mansion house in the Chilterns, a 1,500-acre hideaway with a tennis court and swimming pool.

Plenty of time for the PM to reflect on a tumultuous two years even by the standards of his rollercoaster life: a second divorce, a third marriage, another child and – of course – narrowly escaping death from COVID.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is greeted by staff as he arrives back at 10 Downing Street, London, after meeting Queen Elizabeth II and accepting her invitation to form a new government after the Conservative Party was returned to power in the General Election with an increased majority. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday December 13, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Election. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Image:
Boris Johnson was greeted by staff in Downing Street as he returned after winning the 2019 general election with a landslide majority of 80

As well as all that, he’s imposed three national lockdowns – so far – in England, held 57 coronavirus news conferences in Downing Street and introduced countless draconian rules and restrictions that have put him on collision course with Tory MPs and triggered several big backbench rebellions.

That’s after a Brexit war of attrition in his first year in which he shut down parliament illegally, kicked out 21 rebel Conservative MPs, won the Tories’ biggest election victory since Margaret Thatcher in 1987 and fulfilled his pledge to “get Brexit done”.

More on Coronavirus

President Donald Trump meets with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) .
Image:
Boris Johnson met then US President Donald Trump in September 2019

It’s been two years in which he has hired – and fired – Dominic Cummings, broken a Tory manifesto pledge on overseas aid and been accused of breaking an international treaty on trade and ripping up his own Brexit deal on the Northern Ireland protocol.

After his brush with death, he’s become a fitness obsessive, declaring in a speech last year “My friends, I was too fat” and embarking on a punishing exercise regime involving early morning runs through London parks with his Jack Russell cross Dilyn.

MIME type:
image/jpeg
Width:
1668
Height:
2523
Copyright holder:
PA PICTURE DESK
Copyright notice:
PA Media
Usage terms:
PICTURE DESK USE ONLY. NO SALES FILE PHOTO
Picture by:
Boris Johnson
Image:
The prime minister posted a message on social media in April 2020 to say he had contracted COVID-19 – he was later hospitalised with the virus

He even – temporarily, perhaps – became a football fan during the Euros, wearing his England jersey over his shirt and tie at Wembley in a display that was denounced as a crime against fashion.

Is it really only two years ago that Mr Johnson entered 10 Downing Street on 24 July 2019 and vowed to prove the “doubters, doomsters and gloomsters” wrong over Brexit? Oh, and he also promised to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”.

Still from No 10 clip
Image:
Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown on 23 March 2020

Two years on, we’re still waiting on social care, with the PM squabbling with his chancellor, Rishi Sunak, about how it should be paid for and a blueprint promised earlier this week now postponed until the autumn.

With no Commons majority to speak of in the summer of 2019, Mr Johnson dragged the Queen into the Brexit row by proroguing parliament, a move later ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court.

ID:	19344366066017
Submission Date:	Dec 10, 2019 10:10 (GMT)
Creation Date:	Jun 23, 2016 21:38 (GMT)
Photographer:	Matt Dunham
Source:	AP
Copyright:	Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Credit:	ASSOCIATED PRESS
Special Instructions:	THURSDAY, JUNE 23, 2016 FILE PHOTO
Subjects:	Brexit referendum, Brexit
Location:	London, UNITED KINGDOM
Transmission Reference:	THB106
Byline Title:	stf
Caption Writer:	TH
Use Information:	This content is intended for editorial use only. For othe
Image:
In February 2020 a family court judge approved a financial settlement between Boris Johnson and his ex-wife Marina Wheeler

He then suspended 21 pro-European Tory MPs, including two former Chancellors of the Exchequer – Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond – and his hero Winston Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames.

But after Labour dropped its opposition to a general election, he called a poll for 12 December. And after a typically flamboyant Johnson campaign involving a bulldozer and a pledge of an “oven-ready” deal on Brexit, he won an 80-seat majority.

Boris Johnson and his now wife Carrie Johnson
Image:
The prime minister’s now wife Carrie Johnson moved into Number 10 with him when he took up the role

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party was crushed as the Conservatives won seats in a so-called “Red Wall” in the north of England and the midlands that had been held by Labour for generations. British politics had been turned upside down.

On 31 January 2020, the UK finally left the European Union. But even now the battles between London and Brussels over the small print of the deal are still raging, with the Northern Ireland protocol disagreement no closer to being resolved.

Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie Johnson and their baby Wilfred
Image:
Boris Johnson and Carrie Johnson announced the birth of their son Wilfred on April 29 2020

In February last year it was all change for the PM: Sajid Javid quit as chancellor after Mr Cummings told him to sack his advisers, Mr Johnson was divorced from his long-suffering wife Marina Wheeler and 11 days later he announced that he and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds were engaged and expecting a baby.

What could possibly go wrong? Well, nearly everything, as it turned out.

Boris Johnson and his dog Dilyn
Image:
The couple adopted Dilyn the Jack Russell cross in 2019

In March COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, Mr Johnson was forced to announce the first lockdown in England, in a grim TV address to the nation, and then he tested positive.

But the drama was only just beginning. The day after Sir Keir Starmer was elected Labour leader, the PM was admitted to hospital for a week, including three nights in intensive care. Two weeks after he left hospital, Carrie gave birth to a son, Wilfred.

The Queen held her audience with the PM for the first time since the pandemic began
Image:
The prime minister met the Queen in person for the first time in over a year in June

Lockdown measures were eased in May, but the PM’s whole COVID strategy was undermined by Mr Cummings making a lockdown-busting trip to Durham, including a drive to nearby Barnard Castle, he claimed, to test his eyesight.

Although it was the beginning of the end for the maverick Mr Cummings, the PM should have fired him there and then. Instead, the soap opera reached a climax – or nadir – with an excruciating news conference by Mr Cummings in the Downing Street garden.

Dominic Cummings has claimed the government originally planned to try and build 'herd immunity'
Image:
The PM’s former senior aide Dominic Cummings left Downing Street in November 2020 and the pair have since been engaged in a war of words

It was November, after a second lockdown in England, before Mr Cummings left Number 10, carrying a cardboard box containing his belongings. Also ousted was the PM’s spin doctor, Lee Cain, in what the pair claim to this day was a coup masterminded by the PM’s fiancée.

Meanwhile, the PM was earning a reputation for COVID U-turns by easing lockdown measures in England in December, only to cancel Christmas, bring in tough new rules and then a third national lockdown – including shutting schools – in early January as the UK death toll topped 100,000. There has been criticism, too, of COVID contracts being awarded to Tory cronies.

Allegra Stratton, the face of Downing Street's new daily televised press briefings, enters 10 Downing Street, London, the day after Lee Cain announced he is resigning as Downing Street's director of communications and will leave the post at the end of the year.
Image:
Allegra Stratton was soon appointed as the Downing Street Press Secretary

But then came the vaccine breakthrough: the best news for the PM throughout the whole coronavirus crisis. Even his harshest critics wouldn’t begrudge him the success of the government’s rolling out of the vaccination programme.

The Tories also enjoyed what looked like a vaccine bounce in the opinion polls, although a new poll on the day of the PM’s second anniversary, in the i newspaper, suggests his vaccine bounce may now be ending, with his approval rating slipping into negative territory after a jab high three months ago and a majority now believing he is “dishonest, inconsistent and disorganised”.

And he has used this success to his considerable political advantage. “We vaccinate, he vacillates,” Mr Johnson has taunted Sir Keir several times during Prime Minister’s Questions this year. And the Tories have enjoyed what looks like a vaccine bounce in the opinion polls.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivers his 'Mansion House' speech at the Financial and Professional Services Address, previously known as the Bankers dinner, at Mansion House in the City of London. Picture date: Thursday July 1, 2021.
Image:
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on social media that he would not be taking part in a Test and Release pilot scheme and would instead self-isolate for 10 days

But as well as criticism for coronavirus U-turns, the PM has also come under fire over his financial arrangements and who is paying for his luxury lifestyle: a holiday in the millionaires’ playground of Mustique at Christmas/New Year 2019-20 and a costly makeover for the Downing Street flat, above Number 11, where he, Carrie, Wilfred and the dog live.

On the Mustique holiday, he was criticised by the Standards Committee for failing to ascertain who paid for it. And on the flat, his own ethics adviser, Lord Geidt, found that he acted unwisely over its funding.

The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP Secretary of State for Health and Social Care leaving No10 this morning 16/07/21
Image:
Both Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak were identified as close contacts of Health Secretary Sajid Javid when he tested positive for coronavirus

More criticism of the PM came last month when the Health Secretary Matt Hancock was exposed by a video of what the Sun called a “steamy clinch” with his close aide, Gina Colandangelo, in his Whitehall office.

The matter was closed, the prime minister declared. Oh no it wasn’t! Barely 24 hours later, Mr Hancock was out, replaced by Mr Javid. Bad judgement by Mr Johnson once again, his critics said.

And last Sunday’s abrupt U-turn on self-isolating? Everything we know about the PM and the chancellor suggests it was prompted by Mr Sunak insisting that dodging the rules was wrong and he wanted no part of it.

Matt Hancock has delivered a speech at the Jenner Institute
Image:
Matt Hancock resigned as health secretary after breaking COVID rules with his aide in his Department of Health and Social Care office

There’s a common theme here – a casual relationship with the truth and a disdain for the rules – throughout Boris Johnson’s two years as prime minister, although it began much earlier.

Remember, as well of the recollection by his old Eton schoolmaster, he was sacked from The Times for making up a quote and from the Tory front bench by Michael Howard for lying about an affair.

When it was revealed he had a late-night row with Carrie Symonds at her flat two years ago, photos of his battered old car revealed unpaid parking tickets piled up against the windscreen.

File photo dated 28/1/2021 of Priti Patel. The Home Office has also refused to say how much it has spent on Napier Barracks or how much money has been handed to contractors. Issue date: Tuesday July 6, 2021.
Image:
Boris Johnson has defended Home Secretary Priti Patel as she faced bullying allegations in his first two years in office

And there’s a story of him being chased off a tennis court in a London park by an attendant because he hadn’t paid his £10 fee.

Trivial anecdotes, certainly, but revealing about the PM’s character, critics claim.

So far, however, despite Sir Keir claiming this week the “road will run out” for the PM because the public believe in “integrity, honesty and accountability” and the left-wing Labour MP Dawn Butler being thrown out of the Commons for accusing him of lying, voters don’t seem to care.

Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle angrily reprimands Downing Street for giving a COVID-19 press conference before addressing MPs
Image:
Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle has angrily reprimanded Downing Street multiple times for giving a COVID-19 news briefings before addressing MPs

To his supporters, he’s their hero who won the Brexit referendum, who won the Tories their biggest Commons majority since the glory days of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and who succeeded where Theresa May failed and got Brexit done, as he promised.

Two years from now, with the Fixed Term Parliaments Act repealed, Mr Johnson could be leading the Conservatives into another general election campaign. And if the voters are still forgiving or simply don’t care about all the criticisms about his dodgy boasts and ignoring the rules, he could prove his critics wrong once again.

Continue Reading

Politics

Electoral Dysfunction: The Tory leadership hopeful building their support almost entirely hidden from view

Published

on

By

Electoral Dysfunction: The Tory leadership hopeful building their support almost entirely hidden from view

For weeks – months even – we’ve been watching a beauty parade on the Conservative benches preparing for life after Rishi Sunak as various MPs hook up with various groupings of Conservative backbenchers hoping to garner support for the moment when the ball comes out of the scrum.

On the right, we have seen the ‘five families‘ of right-wing groupings, led by leadership hopefuls Suella Braverman and Robert Jenrick, trying to garner grassroots support by bouncing the prime minister (while Godfather fans will no doubt enjoy the reference to the five leading mafia dynasties of New York City, in the end there was little bloodletting and the prime minister won the day).

Then we have the Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch and Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt on manoeuvres – with briefings from ‘friends’ of the former distancing the cabinet minister from the prime minister’s Rwanda approach, while the latter is hitting the grassroots circuit hard while wooing those new candidates that might end up in the Conservative class of 2024.

👉 Listen above then tap here to follow Electoral Dysfunction wherever you get your podcasts 👈

On Electoral Dysfunction this week, Ruth, Jess and I also had a chat about another contender flying below the radar but definitely positioning – Priti Patel. A former darling of the right, she was overtaken amid the demise of Boris Johnson by Ms Braverman, Ms Badenoch and Liz Truss. But now, the former home secretary and key Johnson ally is back, building her base almost entirely hidden from view.

One MP is on manoeuvres to take over the party if they lose the next election. Pic: PA
Image:
One MP is on manoeuvres to take over the Tory party if they lose the next election. Pic: PA

My ears were first pricked in December when I was talking to a senior figure in the ‘One Nation’ wing of the party – that is home to Tory MPs who are more socially liberal and politically positioned on the centre-right.

As this figure was bemoaning the horrors, as they saw it, of a Braverman leadership bid after the election, they told me that Priti Patel was at least someone on that wing of the party they could do business with. The former cabinet minister acknowledged that the right is likely to take the leadership crown after the election, given the leanings of the Conservative party members who get to choose, and that Patel looks, for now, the pick of an unpalatable bunch for Tory centrists.

More on Jess Phillips

Priti Patel walks on the day of the Britain's Conservative Party's annual conference in Manchester
Image:
Priti Patel is said to be on manoeuvres. Pic: Reuters

And then earlier this month, up Priti Patel popped at the launch of a new grouping – the Popular Conservatives – spearheaded (I know, the irony isn’t missed on me) by Liz Truss.

She is a politician building alliances over all sorts of groupings and even cross-party: when I raised Priti Patel as my dark horse in the likely up-and-coming leadership race, it certainly chimed with Ruth and Jess, with the latter telling us how surprised she’d been when former home secretary Amber Rudd, very much a One Nation Conservative, told her over dinner how she worked well with Priti: “I remember being like, how is this?”

Jess also told me how Patel was with her after MP Sir David Amess was murdered in his constituency: “Those of us who are the highest security risk, of which I am one of ten, they really ramped up our security on these occasions, as they always do in these moments.

“And Priti Patel [who at the time was home secretary] was really good friends with David.

“I mean she was his [constituency] neighbour. And every Sunday night, for four weeks, at about 9pm at night, she would ring me and ask if I was all right. You don’t forget that sort of thing.”

Electoral Dysfunction

Electoral Dysfunction

Listen to Beth Rigby, Jess Phillips and Ruth Davidson as they unravel the spin in a new weekly podcast from Sky News

Tap here to follow

It’s particularly pertinent this week as concerns over MPs’ safety come to the fore over the divisive vote around a ceasefire in Gaza. In the week parliament finally backed an immediate ceasefire – a position which has taken Labour months to move to – this significant moment was drowned out by the spectacle of wrangling and rows over parliamentary procedure and partisan point-scoring from which no one emerged well.

The Speaker has had a particularly torrid 24 hours as dozens of MPs called for him to go after Sir Lindsay Hoyle broke decades of parliamentary precedent to allow all three main parties to put their position on a ceasefire to a vote.

The effect was to let Labour off the hook by avoiding a massive rebellion because it meant Starmer’s MPs could vote for the Labour ceasefire amendment instead of having to defy the whip and support the SNP ceasefire motion. But the Speaker was clear his motive was all about MPs’ safety.

There are those in parliament – like Rishi Sunak – who believe strongly concerns over MPs’ safety shouldn’t ever influence business in the Commons, not least because it could set a dangerous precedent of MPs being intimidated in order to change what they debate and how they vote.

But there is also a lot of chatter on some of the female MPs’ WhatsApp groups about their experiences and concerns over threats, with some – particularly Labour women – having to deal with physical confrontations with protests over the Israel-Hamas conflict.

One Conservative MP told me this week she was “riddled with anxiety” ahead of this week’s vote over what to do. “I’m angry that we’re being put in this position,” she told me.

“We get cast as either child murderers or antisemitic and I’m neither. I believe a nation has a right to defend itself against terrorists but I’m also a pacifist.

“There is no nuance in [this] vote, which is totally irrelevant anyway, just a binary perception of whether you’re for or against a ceasefire.”

Read more:
PM speaks out on Commons chaos
Starmer denies threatening Speaker

So for all of those MPs angry at Sir Lindsay, there are others who are quietly thankful that he takes their safety so seriously and tried to cushion the fallout of this divisive SNP opposition day.

For now, it looks like he’s staying in post. What I can also confidently say will be a mainstay of this year is MPs’ safety, as we head into what is almost certainly going to be a very nasty election campaign. Something for me, Jess, Ruth to chew over in coming episodes.

Continue Reading

Politics

From bodyguards to death threats – the real impact of chaos in the Commons

Published

on

By

From bodyguards to death threats - the real impact of chaos in the Commons

The first real crisis of Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s time as Speaker was on full display as he was forced to apologise for how a debate on Gaza descended into chaos.

While he expressed regret for how his decision to allow a Labour amendment on the SNP’s ceasefire motion had angered MPs, he made clear it was motivated by a regard for their safety – an issue that’s become more pressing since the Israel-Hamas war broke out.

Politics latest: Starmer denies threatening Speaker

Sky News has spent the day talking to MPs and their staff about their experiences – ranging from thousands of aggressive emails landing in their inboxes, to protests outside constituency offices that have left some so afraid that they have to work from home.

The constituency office of Labour MP Jo Stevens in Albany Road, Cardiff, which was sprayed with red paint and posters were put up accusing her of having "blood on her hands"
Image:
Labour MP Jo Stevens previously had her office defaced with posters accusing her of having ‘blood on her hands’. Pic: PA

Ever since tensions over Brexit, MPs have been entitled to panic alarms in their constituency offices to notify the local police force if they are in danger.

And as part of Operation Bridger – activated following the murder of Tory backbencher Sir David Amess – police email staff every Monday to get an itinerary from each MP so they know their whereabouts and of any public-facing events.

Electoral Dysfunction

Electoral Dysfunction

Listen to Beth Rigby, Jess Phillips and Ruth Davidson as they unravel the spin in a new weekly podcast from Sky News

Tap here to follow

‘It’s starting to get him down’

One Labour staffer told us how they now felt like they acted as a “bodyguard” for their MP.

“I’ve started to walk him home, so I’m there to protect him,” they said.

“I walk five steps in front, and you do act as a bit of a bodyguard. I see it as part of the job now.”

The same staffer said the MP they worked for had now started to report tweets that labelled him a “fascist” with “blood on his hands”.

“I think it’s starting to get him down,” they said.

“Before the vote he warned us all on WhatsApp that social media and the parliamentary inbox would be ridiculous for the next 48 hours.”

The office of  Mike Freer MP  
Pic:Mike Freer
Image:
Conservative MP Mike Freer had his office targeted by arsonists on Christmas Eve. Pic: Mike Freer

Death threats have ‘become normal’

Before the chaos in parliament unfolded yesterday, one MP told Sky News they had already received a death threat.

“We are all getting this – it’s become normal for most controversial votes now,” they said.

Last November, when Sir Keir Starmer suffered the resignation of eight shadow ministers who voted for an SNP motion calling for an immediate ceasefire, a protest was held outside the constituency office of one MP and the effigy of a body, along with body bags, was left outside.

At another constituency office, protesters have taken pictures and filmed staff entering and leaving the premises while directing verbal abuse at them.

The situation has become so serious that Labour staff members have been encouraged to apply for a safe gadget, also known as a lone worker gadget, which allows the user to notify police when they feel threatened.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

SNP calls on Speaker to quit

‘The fears of MPs are real’

Former minister and Tory MP Paul Scully said the “security fears of MPs were real” on Wednesday night, and as things grew more “febrile” in the Commons, there was “genuine anger” about what the consequences could be.

“I was pretty anxious when I left parliament last night,” he told Sky News.

“Last time there was a vote on a ceasefire, one of my colleagues in the Lords got really triggered by antisemitic abuse and three cameras being shoved in his face on a tube platform.

“The protests and abuse has just escalated.

“When things like last night happen in the Commons, it is just a tinderbox.”

‘Security has had to be increased’

Senior Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge told Sky News that Muslim MPs in her party were having a “terrible, terrible time” in particular, as rows over whether to back a ceasefire raged on – and voters wanted them to take a stand.

“Security has had to be increased and people have been more guarded,” she added.

But Dame Margaret backed Sir Lindsay’s attempts to widen the debate and his drive to make MPs’ safety a “priority”.

The Jewish MP said he “talked about it a lot in the early days” when he was deputy speaker, and he was “always the person to go to” when she faced antisemitic abuse during Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure leading the Labour Party.

“If you are going to have debate, shouldn’t you put it in context and let democracy prevail?” she added.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Labour MP: ‘I got a death threat today’

‘He has given the impression of giving in to the mob’

However, former defence minister and Tory MP, Sir Alec Shelbrooke, said the Speaker’s actions should not be dictated by external forces.

“In my opinion, he has given in – or has given the impression that he has given in – to the rule of the mob,” he told Sky News.

“I believe he has made the lives of MPs less safe, which I categorically know was not his intention.”

Read more:
What happened in the Commons – and can the Speaker be sacked?
Consensus on ceasefire takes second place to political point-scoring

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, whose mother is Palestinian, said she was subject to some racist comments after last night’s parliamentary display.

But she showed some sympathy for Sir Lindsay, telling Sky News he was “put in an impossible position by a purposefully divisive motion from the SNP”.

The MP said the “core issue” was “the lack of any co-ordination between opposition parties before the debate”, adding: “We tried to coordinate with the SNP, but they didn’t listen to us.

“We didn’t have any idea what Labour were going to do.

“And meanwhile we managed to make something so serious that affects not just Palestinians and Israelis but our streets as well into something about us.”

Continue Reading

Politics

James Cleverly says ‘only thing MPs should fear is ballot box’ as he warns against Commons rule changes over ‘intimidation’

Published

on

By

James Cleverly says 'only thing MPs should fear is ballot box' as he warns against Commons rule changes over 'intimidation'

The home secretary has warned the Speaker against changing Commons conventions due to intimidation from outside parliament, telling Sky News: “The only thing MPs should fear is the ballot box.”

James Cleverly offered his support to Sir Lindsay Hoyle to stay in post – despite 67 MPs having now signed a no-confidence petition against him after Wednesday’s chaotic scenes in the Commons – calling him “a breath of fresh air”.

But he added: “We should not be changing our procedures in response to threats or intimidation. That would indicate that the threats and the intimidation is working – that is the opposite of the message that we want to send.

“If people think that they can target members of parliament, they are wrong. The full force of the law will be brought down.”

Politics live: Speaker comes out fighting

A huge row erupted on Wednesday as parliament held an opposition day debate over the Israel-Hamas conflict, with the SNP calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Pressure had been mounting on the Labour Party to move away from the government’s position of calling for a pause in fighting to echo the SNP’s stance – and they announced they would put forward their own amendment, calling for a ceasefire, albeit with a number of caveats.

More on James Cleverly

Electoral Dysfunction

Electoral Dysfunction

Listen to Beth Rigby, Jess Phillips and Ruth Davidson as they unravel the spin in a new weekly podcast from Sky News

Tap here to follow

Commons conventions say that opposition motions cannot be amended by opposition parties, but Sir Lindsay took the decision to let Labour’s position be debated and voted on, claiming it gave MPs the widest range of positions to discuss and back, and citing the safety of members who were facing threats and intimidation over their position on a ceasefire.

But his decision was met with rage from the Conservatives, who pulled their own amendment and “played no further part” in the proceedings, and ended with the SNP not even getting to vote on their own motion.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

‘I have a duty of care to protect’

Despite the Speaker making two apologies in the Commons on both Wednesday and Thursday for how his decision had played out, calls for him to resign grew – led by the Westminster leader of the SNP, Stephen Flynn, who said his position was now “intolerable”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also criticised Sir Lindsay’s actions, calling them “very concerning”, while former home secretary Suella Braverman wrote an angry piece in the Daily Telegraph, saying it had “undermined the integrity of Parliament” and that “the Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge now”.

Asked about his position on Sir Lindsay as the row entered its third day, Mr Cleverly said: “I think the Speaker’s done a fantastic job. I think he’s been a breath of fresh air compared with his predecessor.

“He made a mistake. He apologised for the mistake. My view is that I’m supportive of him.”

But the current home secretary said it would be down to MPs to decide his fate, adding: “The selection of the Speaker is House business and for the House of Parliament rather than for government.

“And I know that sounds like we’re dancing on the head of a pin, but in our constitution, it’s a very important division. So this is House business for members of parliament, rather than for the government.”

There is no formal way for the Speaker to be removed, but he could choose to resign if calls for him to go continue to grow – as one of his predecessors, Michael Martin, did in 2009.

However, with support from the Labour benches and senior Conservatives, Sir Lindsay could instead decide to fight on to stay on post.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Speaker ‘cannot continue’ in role

The Tories have sought to blame Labour for the shambolic scenes in parliament this week, amplifying reports that party leader Sir Keir Starmer threatened to withdraw support from the Speaker if he did not select their ceasefire amendment.

A Conservative source told Sky News on Friday: “Starmer’s undermined parliament, bullied the Speaker into doing something he admitted was ‘wrong’, and it sadly won’t be long before more antisemitic views emerge from Labour.”

And Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho told reporters: “I think the Speaker is a decent man. He’s a really well-respected parliamentarian. I didn’t agree with the ruling that he made, but I think the real culprit here is Keir Starmer.

“I think he’s put the Speaker in an intolerable position by saying that we should bow to intimidation and external influences. No intimidation should change the way that we vote in parliament or what we vote on.”

But Sir Keir “categorically” denied making any such threat, telling reporters that when he met Sir Lindsay, he “simply urged” him to have “the broadest possible debate” by putting a number of options in front of MPs.

The Labour leader added: “The tragedy is the SNP walked off the pitch because they wanted to divide the Labour Party and they couldn’t, and the government walked off the pitch because it thought it was going to lose a vote.”

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Starmer denies threatening Speaker

Speaking to Sky News on Friday morning, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper insisted Sir Lindsay was “right” to select Labour’s amendment to the ceasefire vote – which ended up passing – “making sure the widest possible range of views can be debated, sit on and can be voted on, that is something that is good for democracy”.

But she agreed decisions on parliamentary procedure should not be made because of intimidation from outside.

Continue Reading

Trending