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Speaker Close To Tears

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Speaker Survives Secret Ballot Vote 'Plot'





Speaker John Bercow was close to tears as MPs voted against a Government move to force a secret ballot on his re-election.




House of Commons leader William Hague was accused of a "grubby" manoeuvring for forcing the secret ballot motion on to the paper last night for a vote on the final day of the 2010 Parliament.




The move has been widely interpreted as a Conservative attempt to remove Mr Bercow, who regularly admonishes the Prime Minister during heated debates.




And as Mr Bercow shouted "order" ahead of the vote someone could be heard shouting: "You won't be saying that in a month" from the Conservative benches.









Scenes in the Commons as MPs debated the motion were emotional and Mr Bercow appeared to be close to tears as it was announced the Government had lost the vote by 228 to 202.




More than 20 Conservative MPs voted against the Government to defeat Mr Hague, who is standing down at the election.




He gave a withering look towards the Conservatives benches but was rewarded with shouts of "pathetic" and "resign".




Mr Hague was fiercely criticised by both sides of the house with Labour's Gerald Kaufman saying he had "now descended to squalor".




Conservative MP Charles Walker, who had been to Mr Hague's leaving drinks earlier in the week, said he had been "played as a fool" by Mr Hague, while Zac Goldsmith said the move appeared to be "underhand".




Labour MPs rose to their feet and applauded in extraordinary scenes on the last day of Parliament before the election campaign begins in earnest.




Mr Hague's proposal would have meant if any MP had complained about his return to the role after the General Election then there could have been a secret ballot.




Mr Bercow has been a divisive figure since he took over the role in 2009.




He has introduced a number of changes in Parliament, including a nursery, and has been vocal in his fight for better female representation in the House of Commons.




He has also sharply criticised the "Punch and Judy" politics of Prime Minister's Questions, suggesting alternative formats for the bruising, weekly sessions.




Shadow Commons leader Angela Eagle, to whom David Cameron once addressed his "calm down dear" comment, said the Government had made a "cynical attempt to bring the speakership into play to use it as a bargaining chip in coalition negotiations."




Conservative MP Julian Lewis read an email from Liberal Democrat Andrew George, who had been unable to attend the debate because his father died on Wednesday night.




He wrote: "Had I been able to attend, I would object in the strongest terms to the way this is being done. I don't mind a motion being brought forward in an open and honest manner, but not in this underhand way."




Asked whether David Cameron regretted trying to rush the move through, the Prime Minister's spokeswoman said the  Government was only trying to implement the recommendations of the Procedures Committee and a slot on the agenda opened up because the Lords did not make amendments to the Modern Slavery Bill.




When asked if Mr Cameron thought the Speaker was doing a good job, she said: "This was about the process of the reappointment of the Speaker, not about an individual. It was about process. That’s a view for MPs across the House to express."

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