I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised but now Labour have shown they can’t even keep their word on parliamentary deals.
With all respect to Tim Barnett but it is a load of baloney that it was up to the Speaker not the Whips to keep MPs from his party quiet during the Leader’s speeches. This is in fact against standing orders and flatly wrong.
People may not be aware of this but Parliament runs on the basis of private agreements all the time. Whips agree at the Business Committee we’ll only debate the committee stage of that bill for 90 minutes even though we could fillbuster it for six hours. And it is the Whips who enforce the agreements by telling their own sides what the agreement is. The Speaker generally can not enforce any agreement that is more restrictive than standing orders.
So if Labour had agreed to hear both speeches in silence (and Clark’s was) and then Labour screamed non stop during Brash’s speech the fault can only lie with the Whips. Wither they broke their word and didn’t tell their MPs not to heckle or they were ignored by their own Caucus.
This seems like a small issue, but Parliament runs on a Whip’s word being his or her bond. That is why you tend to appoint Whips who are good at working with MPs from other parties. You don’t appoint a Muldoon or a Meurant as a Whip for example.
Now I have a lot of time for Tim Barnett. But on this occassion he has let Parliament down badly.