Tories on warpath after Bercow says it's OK to call Hunt liar

Jeremy Hunt survives confidence vote, but Speaker causes uproar by allowing Labour MP to accuse him of lying

Column LAST UPDATED AT 17:52 ON Wed 13 Jun 2012

IN THE END, Jeremy Hunt survived Labour's attack on his integrity. But following a bad-tempered debate over the Culture Secretary's fitness for office in the House of Commons, the Tory pack are now after the blood of Speaker John Bercow.

Bercow - a former Conservative MP who has travelled from the hard right to the liberal left of politics - infuriated Tory MPs by ruling that it was acceptable to call Hunt a liar.

Labour MP Chris Bryant had just accused the Culture Secretary of telling "deliberate obfuscations and lies".

Normally the words like "lies" are regarded as unparliamentary language, which have to be withdrawn immediately on pain of being thrown out of the House. Bercow ruled, however, that because Hunt's integrity had been called into question by a substantive Labour motion, it was in the rules to call him a liar.

Even saintly Sir George Young, the Leader of the House, who many believe would have made a better Speaker than Bercow, lost his cool by challenging Bercow's ruling.

Hunt was clearly nonplussed, and questioned Bercow, angrily saying there was a difference between inadvertently misleading Parliament and lying. Bercow, pompously puffing himself up to his full height (4ft 3ins) said he was acting on the advice of the bewigged clerks in front of him.

The Tory twerp Jacob Rees-Mogg jumped up and said: "Please Miss, as we can call Jeremy a liar, can we call the Labour frontbench a bunch of toad-eating, snotty stinky poohs?" (You can find the actual words on Hansard).

The Labour motion calling for Hunt to be investigated for a breach of ministerial rules over the BSkyB bid was defeated by 290 to 252 and the Lib Dems stuck to their orders from Nick Clegg to abstain.

Their refusal to back Cameron and Hunt would normally have led to a deepening rift with the Tories, who are fed up to the back teeth with the Coalition.

James MacIntyre of the Spectator told Sky News that he would bet on Clegg being replaced by Vince Cable within the next year. James Lyons of the Daily Mirror begged to differ and offered to take MacIntyre's bet while saying that Clegg should "man up" and face down Cameron.

But the real loser could be Bercow. The Tory pack want blood. The Mole would not be surprised if the Tory backbenchers are not already plotting a no confidence motion in the Speaker, unless it is ruled out of order... by the Speaker. · 

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Labour should have won this vote. Any Labour MP not in the House for the vote should lose the whip. Set of tossers were probably in the bar or receiving a brown envelope somewhere.

No, spurnlad, Go look up the Parliamentary arithmetic (and remember that the Sinn Fein and SNP MPs don't vote - don't know about Plaid).