A Labour MP has been kicked out of the House of Commons for the day after picking up the ceremonial mace in wild scenes in parliament following the shelving of the Brexit vote.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who represents Brighton Kemptown, was protesting the postponement of the crunch vote which was “deferred” by Theresa May as it became clear she faced a crushing defeat.
Without the symbolic rod, MPs are not permitted to debate or vote. Below, Russell-Moyle is filmed walking towards the ornate rod as Speaker Bercow urges him to “put it back”.
The protest stems from the way the government decided to halt the vote, opting for an arcane parliamentary procedure rather than asking MPs.
The remaining two days of a planned five-day debate on May’s proposals will be postponed, along with votes on her agreement with Brussels, to a date yet to be fixed.
This was done by a parliamentary procedure which does not require approval from MPs - despite Speaker John Bercow saying it would be “discourteous” to do so. In fact, all it required is a government enforcer - known as the whip - to shout “tomorrow”.
It was after the whip stood up and boomed the magic word that Russell-Moyle made his protest.
Speaking from the Red Lion pub just outside Parliament, the Labour MP said he was frustrated by the Government unilaterally deciding to ditch a vote using a solitary whip to order the vote to be postponed.
He said: “I thought, one person is shouting ‘tomorrow’ and literally hundreds of people are shouting ‘today’, and the will of Parliament is going to be ignored.
“The symbolic gesture of lifting the mace and removing it is that the will of Parliament to govern is no longer, it has been removed, and I felt Parliament had effectively given up its sovereign right to govern properly.
“If we don’t sort out our constitutional settlement so that governments can’t do this in the future we do need to keep lodging these protests.”
The last time the mace was taken from its place was in 2009 by now shadow chancellor John McDonnell.
McDonnell was suspended from the Commons for five days grabbing the mace in protest at the Government’s decision to allow a third runway at Heathrow.
In 1976 former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine was also reprimanded for picking up the ceremonial mace.
As a young Tory MP, Heseltine swung the mace in fury at the then Labour government’s decision to breach pairing arrangements and force through a measure by one vote.
After Russell-Moyle made his move, Tory MPs screamed “expel him” and “name him” as Speaker Bercow rose to his feet.
Bercow said: “By the power given to me by standing order number 43 and I think (Mr Russell-Moyle) will know the implication of his action, I must order (Mr Russell-Moyle) to withdraw immediately from the House for the remainder of this day’s sitting. Mr Russell-Moyle please leave the chamber.”
Russell-Moyle initially refused the order and remained in the House before Mr Bercow said: “No, no he must leave or be escorted, he should leave” — at which he left.
Some MPs were earlier furious at the prospect, including Labour’s Chris Bryant, who demanded parliament was given a vote on whether the main Brexit vote should go ahead or not.
Bryant told parliament: “I would’ve had respect for the leader of the house and the government if they’d come forward with a motion saying we’ll put it to the house that we are not going to put it to the house.
“But they are instead relying on a shabby little trick where a government whip will just shout tomorrow, which in this Parliament does not mean tomorrow it means mañana - it means never.
“Isn’t the ultimate irony of all that the government is preventing the people from having a vote on it, it is preventing the commons from having a vote on it, but the House of Lords is going to vote on it tonight.
“What is good enough for earls and barons is good enough for us.”
The leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, dismissed the criticism, calling the device a “bit of parliamentary pantomime”.
She said to Bryant: “He knows full well that the government often names tomorrow as the next date for deferring an order of the day, so after a first reading, when naming the date for a second reading debate, if it is not known, then it is ‘tomorrow’ and then the government decides.”
MPs could now have to wait until as late as January 21, 2019 to vote on the government’s beleaguered deal, May announced in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.
There was also laughter in the House as Leadsom announced that “consideration of Lords amendments to the Ivory Bill” will replace the Brexit meaningful vote debate tomorrow.
Instead of debating the Ivory Bill, Labour MP Mike Gapes said MPs should be “addressing the elephant in the room” and debating the Brexit deal.
The foreign affairs select committee chairman said: “Isn’t the reality the big elephant in the room is the statement this afternoon by the EU Council president Donald Tusk that the EU is not prepared to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement at all?
“Isn’t that the reality that shows this whole proceeding is a total farce?”
Leadsom denied the Brexit negotiations had reached a dead end but congratulated Gapes on a “piece of proper parliamentary pantomime”.