A Disgrace at Westminster Yesterday


There is a most interesting comparison between the time when Alex Salmond and I (at different times) were expelled from the House of Commons, and what took place with Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey on Wednesday. The comparison is with the demeanour and language of the Speaker, and the underlying reality. 

When we disrupted proceedings it was on one of great days in the parliamentary calendar – the budget.  The Speaker didn’t lose the plot, show any animosity, stuck to the well knownscript for such occasions, named us, and when we didn’t move, the then Leader of the House, again with his own script always at hand, moved that we be suspended, with his motion then subject to a vote. Only after the vote did we leave. 

When we did it, the SNP was a minnow group of MPs, representing a party which at that time seemed to pose no real threat to the British state, and so could be dealt by the Speaker with what was the usual way with bad boys misbehaving in the club. We were, of course, barracked by the Tory and Labour backbenches, and stood our ground in what was a hostile atmosphere.  But the Speaker was cool, and after we refused his order to sit down, left it to the usual procedure conducted by the Leader of the House. 

Not so with Speaker Hoyle on Wednesday. Although Kenny and Neale are no longer in the SNP, on the issue they sought to raise, who has the right to hold a referendum, the elite holders of power in the British state see them as no different from the Blackford group – asserting a position endangering that state.  Unlike when Alex and I were there, there is now a perceived real threat that simply will not go away. 

Result?  Anger, frustration, intense dislike, fear of and fury at what Kenny and Neale stand for boiling over. No mere barracking from British party backbenchers, more like a baying mob.  No smooth reading of the usual script from the Chair, but face contorted and coarse snarling language to “shut up and get out.”   Speaker Hoyle’s reaction was a giveaway.  He did represent the majority in the Commons. They know that the drive for independence is not going to be smothered by repeated rejections for a referendum, and his reaction showed just how much they resent what is to come.