Sunday, February 12, 2017

Speaker error - not that important.

Speaker Bercow was (in my opinion) 'out of order' to effectively ban the President of the United States of America from speaking in Westminster Hall and the Royal Gallery when he visits Britain later this year. But I think "So what". Everyone does and says things I disagree with. What matters is the overall judgement and effectiveness of Speaker Bercow. And I've always thought and said that he has done an excellent job, reforming how the House of Commons works, and holding the Govt to account. But this post is about why I think he was wrong to lay into Donald Trump as he did. And I am not going to speculate on why he did it - but I do think he will be entirely happy that I should. It helps his standing with other political parties.

All I'm going to do is repeat parts of an article by Vernon Bogdanor, Professor of Govt at King's College. Brilliant authority on constitutional issues. The best, and I share his opinion.

"The Speaker of the House of Commons is expected, like the Queen, to preserve strict political neutrality. Yet, John Bercow...has declared that President Trump should not be invited to make an address to Parliament."
"The Speaker, however is a servant of the House of Commons. He is not empowered to express his own views in public, but only the views of the Commons. But the Commons has not yet come to a view. The Speaker's intervention, therefore, constitutionally improper."
"It is also politically unhelpful. For it is by no means clear whether an invitation to address Parliament is one that the US President actually seeks. In that case, the Speaker will have initiated an unnecessary diplomatic spat by pronouncing on an issue that may not arise and in any case did not need to be addressed in public."

"Theresa May has been treading on eggshells. She believes, probably rightly, that there is more to be gained from private remonstrance than from publicly snubbing the notoriously thin skinned President. She is engaged in a delicate diplomatic balancing act, avoiding confrontation while making it clear she does not share some of the President's views and in particular his policy on immigration."

"The Prime Minister will likely be not grateful to the Speaker who, in parading his virtue, may have undermined her diplomacy."

"Until the Commons comes to a definite view on the state visit and the possibility of anaddress to Parliament, the Speaker should stay silent, even if he believes his view is backed by many. It is not his job to counterpose his own opinion against that of the elected Government. In any case, megaphone diplomacy rarely succeeds."

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