How they do it in Britain

by Aaron Wherry

While the NDP is calling for the Speaker to be more assertive on this side of the Atlantic, there is an interesting development to be noted in the mother parliament.

David Cameron is to be required to make an urgent Commons statement about the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, a development that will infuriate No 10 and strengthen its suspicion of the Speaker, John Bercow. David Cameron will cut short an election tour to make the Commons statement on Monday afternoon, amid pressure on Hunt over his handling of News Corp’s bid to take full control of BSkyB.

So Mr. Cameron is made to go to the House of Commons and spends 50 minutes explaining himself, taking questions from 42 backbenchers in the process.

Our Mr. Harper doesn’t generally come to the House on Mondays. If he attends Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, he might face somewhere between 18 and 24 questions per week in total from the NDP and Liberal leaders.

During a regular session of Prime Minister’s Questions last year, Speaker Bercow twice cut off Mr. Cameron when he felt the Prime Minister’s answers had gone on long enough.




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How they do it in Britain

  1. Whereas we have wimpy Speakers, which is why our HOC is always a cross between a mud wrassle and a zoo at feeding time.

    • As I had it explained to me when I complained about Speaker Miliken’s “inability” to bring Parlementarians to heel, he was acting as a traditional Speaker who was the servant of the Members and that, as they are all to be considered “honourable gentleman” (since all the original Parlementarians were men), they were supposed to be able to police themselves.

      The tenor that this gang of Harper Conservatives has brought to the House since its days in Opposition is one of non-stop anger, contempt, and evasion. Once they are gone, things will get better.

      • I’ll certainly agree with that! Instead of having ‘honourable gentlemen’, we now have a group of ‘Angry Bairds’ running things….and anything not explicitly forbidden, in writing and signed in blood….can just be ignored or overridden.

        Once they are gone, we’d better hasten to make these things written and explicit, so it can never happen again.

  2. Pols, public service and msm take themselves seriously over in UK while here in Canada our elites resemble kids in sandbox on recess from kindergarten.

    There is still accountability in UK which I am envious of.

    Also, UK leaders at moment are all privately educated boys and girls, which probably helps them debate because they were able to avoid the public system which is turning people into illiterate dunderheads. It would make me twitchy if Canada was led by all those posh people but discourse would be better.

  3. I read that story this morning and wondered whether our Speaker even has the authority to summon the PM to the HOC to make a statement on a given situation. Does anyone know the answer to this?

    • We don’t have Urgent Questions in Canada, which is the parliamentary proceeding used in this instance. An Urgent Question can be put forward by any MP, and it is up to the Speaker to determine if it has any merit. The previous Speaker rarely allowed them but Speaker Bercow is a huge fan of backbenchers and the legislature and he has granted over 100 since becoming Speaker in 2010.

      • Thanks.

  4. I am also envious of Cabinet holding the Prime Minister to account. First among equals indeed, but wouldn’t you enjoy the spectacle of Cabinet firing the Prime Minister?(!)

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