Absolute chaos broke out in the House of Commons after Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Question’s when dozens of points of order were shouted out from Conservative benches. A point of order is when a member is not happy with the proceedings and can raise their objection. But the speaker John Bercow insisted that points of order take place after a statement. This was greeted by shouts of “rubbish” from Tory backbenchers who say that objections are raised every week before statements.
The issue at hand was during the exchange, between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn when the opposition leader sat down and clearly said the words “stupid woman,” after being verbally beaten up by the Prime Minister for not having any plan to leave the EU.
Coming under extraordinary pressure from conservative members, leader of the house, Andrea Leadson was eventually allowed to make the point that when she was called a stupid woman by the speaker himself earlier this year, Bercow did not even apologise.
Tory staunch remainer Anna Soubry, who has threatened to leave the party, told the speaker that video of Jeremy Corbyn stating “stupid woman” was already circulating on social media and that the speaker needed to watch the recording.
Other conservative members also stood up for the Prime Minister whilst she remained in her seat, although Corbyn immediately left the commons after PMQs and it was clear Bercow was under immense pressure. But the speaker kept repeating he did not see the incident and therefore could not rule on the matter.
Labour later denied that Corbyn used misogynistic language so I guess just like appearing at the terrorist graves of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, it was another case of “I was there but I did not actually participate.”
The incident comes after Labour said it would put forward a vote of no confidence in the government this week but then changed its mind, then changed it back again but still did not go through with it. Then without informing his MPs, Corbyn suddenly tabled a no confidence vote in the Prime Minister.
The problem was he did not understand parliamentary procedure which says that because the Labour party had used up all their time for 2018 to table a motion, the Conservatives refused to give him some of their time.
Mrs May’s performance in the House this week was raised to yet another new level after she gently refused another so called “people’s vote” from all sides of the house. She stated it is her deal (which may receive some tweaking in January) or hinted that no deal was a possibility.
In doing so she is clearly loading the pressure upon Labour to vote with the government next month or it will be their fault that Britain would leave the EU on March 29 without a trade deal.
Minister for Trade, Dr Liam Fox eloquently explained why another referendum on practical, constitutional and democratic grounds would be wrong.
Speaking to the BBCs Andrew Marr last Sunday, he said on practical grounds, “We would have to pass primary legislation which will take time. The electoral commission would then take about 10 weeks to determine the question and then require another 12 weeks or so before any referendum could be held.”
According to this scenario, an extension of article 50 would be needed but would not heal the divisions in the country – in fact it would perpetuate the division.
Second is constitutional and Dr Fox asked, “How would we tell Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP that they cannot have another referendum on Scottish independence because they did not like the result when remainers are allowed another one on Europe?”
Finally on democratic grounds – the Minister said “Parliament said to the public we can’t make a decision on this, so you make a decision and we will take an instruction from that.”
This he said was reinforced by the 2017 general election when the two main parties said they would honour that referendum result and received 80% of the vote.
However the Secretary of State correctly asked, “What would happen if we had another referendum and remain won by 52 to 48 but on a lower turnout? People like myself, would demand the best of three,” Dr Fox said.
As Parliament now breaks for the holidays, January is clearly going to be a month of poker between Mrs May and Labour. And it is anyone’s guess who will blink first and what type of a deal if any will the EU give Britain.
James Marlow is a journalist and international news contributor. Follow on twitter @James_J_Marlow