As MPs debate Brexit for what seems like the millionth time, Speaker Bercow has reiterated his opposition to a third ‘meaningful vote’ on Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement without substantive changes. Unfortunately, he also indicated that he won’t allow the Government to try to waive the rules so the vote could be held anyway.
Bercow’s original ruling was likely correct, but his behavior today leaves much to be desired. While the Government shouldn’t be able to force the Commons to vote on the same topic again and again, that doesn’t mean MPs can’t choose to disregard precedent if necessary. Since the House ultimately decides how its business is conducted, it’s free to apply the rules as it sees fit.
By further frustrating the Government’s plans for a third meaningful vote, Bercow appears to be acting in a partisan manner. After all, he allowed backbench MPs to table a motion suspending the standing orders that give the Government control over the Commons’ agenda. Why can they bend the rules but the Government cannot? It makes no sense. Bercow can’t claim that precedent needs to evolve only to turn around and cling to precedent when it suits him.