Tory MP Charles Walker delivered an emotional speech to the Commons on Thursday after he felt deceived by the government's attempts to get rid of John Bercow as Speaker.
The government tabled a surprise vote on Thursday, attempting on the last day of parliament to change the rules on electing the Speaker, but the move was seen by Labour and some Conservative MPs as a thinly veiled plan to oust Bercow.
Commons leader William Hague wanted to introduce a secret ballot to decide the next Speaker, but Labour and some Tory MPs called it a "grubby plot" to get rid of Bercow.
It was widely believed that a secret ballot would make it more likely for Bercow to be ousted because MPs could vote behind closed doors without fear of repercussions.
Walker, the chair of the procedure committee dealing with the issue, said his own party had misled him by not informing him in advance about the motion. Visibly emotional, he told the house that he'd "rather be an honourable fool than a clever man".
Charles Walker said in his speech:
Mr Speaker, you've done an enormous amount for this house and an enormous amount to empower this chamber. Mr Speaker, we do share a weakness and we both know what that weakness is. Mr Speaker, we both have a temper and we need to work together, Mr Speaker, to better manage our tempers in the future. I was quite cross with a couple of very decent whips yesterday and I apologise to them today, as I did yesterday.
Mr Speaker, but this report shouldn't be about you and it is becoming about you, and I fear the government has wanted it to become about you. It should be about the position of Speaker. On the 6 February 2013 my committee decided to bring forward this report – we were going to recommend a motion that the status quo be retained. This was an amendable motion so those colleagues who disagree could have amended that motion and a vote could have taken place.
On 7 February I wrote a letter to the then leader of the house [William Hague] notifying him of this matter and also asking that our debates be taken in prime time so that whole house could come to an informed decision. At about that time, circumstances meant that the government felt unable to bring forward that report and we agreed with the government's view on this matter.
On 28 January we met with the leader of the house and had further discussions about various reports, including the election of the Speaker. I did sent a letter on 3 February confirming the committee's view – firm view, unanimous view, and the committee is made up of all sorts of people from all sorts of parties – that any vote should take place in prime time so that the house could come to an informed decision.
I do say to the government that this is not I think how they expected today to play out. The government was hoping that the party would be kept here under a three-line whip for a party meeting and others would have gone home. This does not reflect well on the government.
Then, in the most dramatic section of the speech, he criticised William Hague for misleading him:
But can I just say this: How you treat people in this place is important. This week, I went to the leader of the house's leaving drinks. I spent 20 minutes saying goodbye to his special adviser yesterday. I went into his private office and was passed by the deputy leader of the house yesterday, all of whom would have been aware of what they were proposing to do.
I also had a number of friendly chats with our chief whip yesterday, and yet I find out at 6.30 last night that this house, the leader of this house, is bringing forward my report.
Mr Speaker, 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, and I would much rather be an honourable fool, Mr Speaker, in this and any other matter, than a clever man.
Commentators said it was one of the most memorable parliamentary moments they'd ever witnessed.
The government's motion was defeated by 228 votes to 202.
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at email@example.com.
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