Opposition MPs staged a protest in the chamber tonight as parliament was suspended – or ‘prorogued’ – for five weeks, against the wishes of a majority in the House of Commons.
The parliamentarians in question were opposed to the unusually long suspension of parliament, which will take place during a crucial time in the run-up to the latest Brexit deadline of October 31st.
At first, the protesting MPs made some attempt to prevent Speaker Bercow from leaving his chair. Then they held up ‘SILENCED’ signs around the Speaker’s chair as the prorogation process began.
Labour MPs Clive Lewis, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Rachael Maskell, all members of the Love Socialism group in parliament, were at the forefront of the protest, as well as Labour frontbencher Dawn Butler and Green MP Caroline Lucas.
Commenting on the disruption, Speaker Bercow – who announced today that he would be stepping down on October 31st – said he would play his part in the prorogation ceremony but expressed his view that the long suspension was not “normal”.
Bercow also told heckling Tory MP Andrew Stephenson: “Get out man – you will not be missed.” Later, he described another Conservative, Graham Stuart, as “a master of disorder”, adding: “I could not give a flying flamingo what your view is.”
“This is not a normal prorogation” – Commons Speaker John Bercow makes his views clear as Parliament is prorogued until the middle of October pic.twitter.com/cVqKa9VDpj
— BBC Parliament (@BBCParliament) September 10, 2019
Bercow was called a “hero” and a number of Labour MPs applauded his comments.
Bercow the hero pic.twitter.com/LFkHGH5S9b
— Stephen Morgan MP (@StephenMorganMP) September 10, 2019
When Tory MPs followed Bercow out of the chamber to go to the House of Lords, in keeping with the suspension process, opposition MPs shouted: “Shame on you!” at members of the ruling party. The opposition MPs then chose to remain seated and refused to take part in the prorogation ceremony.
— Hannah Bardell 🏴🏳️🌈 (@HannahB4LiviMP) September 10, 2019
Opposition MPs refuse to leave the chamber and keep our democracy alive whilst Tories abandon their shrinking ship. https://t.co/zbqjUecVdG
— Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP 🌹🇪🇺🏳️🌈 (@lloyd_rm) September 10, 2019
Once the Commons had stopped being broadcast, Alex Sobel, Labour MP for Leeds North West, tweeted: “We’re now staying in the Chamber as an act of defiance against the closing down of Parliament. We’re now singing the Red Flag – maybe the first time its been sung in the chamber.”
Shadow minister Danielle Rowley tweeted a video of MPs singing ‘The Red Flag’, the anthem of the Labour Party:
I know you’re not meant to film in the chamber, but everyone on the opposition benches is singing and this moment was beautiful. pic.twitter.com/MfQzpdTHRa
— Danielle Rowley MP (@DaniRowley) September 10, 2019
Sobel later added: “We’re now all going to shake the speakers hand. Only 5 Tories staying to shake his hand. This feels like the end of something to everyone here. We also feel that we’ve been denied something although we are the majority.”
The Commons is set to return in five weeks’ time, on October 14th for the state opening of parliament.