Our Prehistoric House of Commons . . .

I append below the text of an article published in The Guardian newspaper published yesterday . . .

The Labour MP Dawn Butler has been ejected from the Commons after saying Boris Johnson had lied repeatedly to fellow parliamentarians and the country, and then refusing to withdraw the remark.

“The prime minister has lied to this house time and time again,” Butler told the deputy speaker, Judith Cummins. When asked to “reflect on her words”, Butler added: “It’s funny that we get in trouble in this place for calling out the lie, rather than the person lying.”

Under Commons rules about what is considered unparliamentary language, it is forbidden for MPs to accuse their fellows of deliberate deceit.

Speaking in a backbench business debate shortly before the end of the final day of Commons business before the summer recess, Butler condemned the government’s response to coronavirus.

“Poor people in this country have paid with their lives because the prime minister spent the last 18 months misleading this house and the country,” the Brent Central MP said.

Butler cited a much-shared social media video collating many of Johnson’s incorrect statements, highlighting in particular the prime minister’s comment to MPs earlier in the month that the Covid vaccination programme had “severed” the link between infections and serious illness or death.

While this appeared an error rather than a deliberate attempt to deceive – the official government line remains that the link has only been weakened, not severed – Johnson has never corrected himself, and fellow ministers have refused to accept he was wrong.

Butler told MPs: “Not only is this not true, it’s dangerous. It’s dangerous to lie in the pandemic. And I’m disappointed the prime minister has not come to the house to correct the record, and to correct the fact that he has lied to this house and the country over and over again.”

At this point Cummins, a fellow Labour MP who is a stand-in deputy speaker after one of the office holders, Rosie Winterton, was forced to self-isolate, intervened to twice ask Butler to withdraw the charge of lying.

Butler said: “I’ve reflected on my words, and somebody needs to tell the truth in this house, that the prime minister has lied.” Cummins told the MP she was suspended for the rest of the day, and Butler left the Commons.

Johnson’s tendency towards dishonesty is much chronicled, with a series of people who have known him commenting on what Max Hastings, his editor at the Daily Telegraph, called “his moral bankruptcy, rooted in a contempt for truth”.

Under his tenure as prime minister, Downing Street has often declined to correct the record when he has said something false, even on issues that are not in doubt.

However, in a chamber where MPs must refer to each other as the “honourable member”, accusations of dishonesty are forbidden. An official glossary of other unparliamentary language not permitted by Speakers in recent years includes “blackguard”, “coward”, “git”, “guttersnipe”, “hooligan”, “rat” and “stool pigeon”.

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I am not a great one for writing to MPs as my experience with those allegedly representing us in the past 30 years has been uniformly depressing. But this woman has done no more than to speak the truth as the newspaper article itself confirms. Johnson’s inability to tell the truth has been well documented (see eg : Wikipedia), and has resulted in his being sacked twice, and to get all hoity toity about it in the House of Commons is at best ridiculous and at its worst a deliberate concealment – which is not what the House of Commons is for.

Here is the text of my email to Miss Butler . . .

Dawn Butler MP

House of Commons

Houses of Parliament

London, UK.

I write to express my support for your remarks in the House of Commons yesterday. You did nothing worse than to tell the truth and the fact that you were ejected for so doing says more about the House of Commons than it does about you.

I think you should be reinstated and congratulated.

I am 87 years old and might therefore be expected to be dead from the neck up, but a lifetime of viewing from the sidelines has taught me that our electoral system and our Parliament are not fit for purpose and need some drastic improvements if this country’s political life is to be saved for the benefit our great grand children of whom we already have two.

All best wishes.

About Ian

Retired Clergyman, and former RAF person. Lives in SW Scotland. One wife. Two children, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren scattered across UK, Europe and the USA.
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