Shouts, personal insults and howls of laughter. Anyone who thought the Brits were a civilized bunch should tune in to Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQ), a ticketed event in the House of Commons that takes place every Wednesday at noon. PMQs are the opportunity for parliamentarians representing constituents from across the country to ask the Prime Minister questions.
In theory, this sounds like a perfectly reasonable and civilized matter. In reality, it often descends into chaos, with many MPs having been suspended from Parliament due to their behaviour. Sometimes, however, politicians are suspended from Parliament not for their behavior inside the House but for what they did outside of it. Here are ten shocking moments when British MPs were suspended from Parliament.
Related: 10 Hilariously Mean Acts By Politicians And Leaders
10 dennis skinner
Dennis Skinner, an MP for the Labor Party, is a habitual offender and has been suspended from Parliament numerous times, most recently in 2016. Like a man struggling to bite his tongue, Skinner made a statement in the House about he Panama Papers (Millions of documents leaked in 2016 that revealed the financial practices of some of the world’s richest people.) The then Prime Minister, David Cameron, had been implicated in the documents.
Skinner questioned the Prime Minister about a large sum of money he had allegedly received from paying off the mortgage on a property in London. Pouncing the question at the prime minister, she referred to him as “doubtful Dave.” Accused of “anti-parliamentary language,” the Speaker of the House asked Skinner to drop the dubious adjective. Instead, Skinner reaffirmed his claims and was banned from the chamber for the rest of the day as a result.
9 Lloyd Russell-Moyle
An even more shocking moment where an MP was thrown out of Parliament occurred in 2018 when Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a Labor MP, was thrown out of the House. On the day in question, MPs met to discuss a vote on the then Prime Minister’s (Theresa May) Brexit deal. The debate turned heated after May canceled a vote on the deal to seek more guarantees from the European Union.
Frustrated, Russell-Moyle grabbed the ceremonial mace and proceeded to remove it from its holder and walked away. The mace is a sizable silver-gilt ornamental club and the symbol of royal authority, without which the House cannot enforce or pass laws. ”
8 Ian Blackford
Another British MP who has been expelled from Parliament on more than one occasion is the leader of the Scottish National Party in the House, Ian Blackford. Previously ousted from Parliament in 2018, Blackford was ousted from the House again as recently as January 31, 2022. Tensions have risen in the House amid the “Partygate” scandals that have engulfed Boris Johnson’s government, with allegations that the Prime Minister attended parties during a period when the country was in a COVID lockdown.
In the House, in an impassioned tirade against the Prime Minister, Blackford declared that Boris Johnson had “deliberately misled Parliament” regarding the Partygate scandal. Under parliamentary rules, parliamentarians cannot accuse each other of lying. The Speaker gave Blackford the opportunity to withdraw his statement and replace it with “unwittingly misled”. However, Blackford refused to redraft him and was promptly asked to withdraw from the House. In the days that followed, Blackford reiterated his assertions that Johnson “is not fit to be prime minister.”
7 John McDonnell
Like his fellow Labor MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle (see #9), John McDonnell was also suspended from Parliament after taking the ceremonial mace. In 2009, McDonnell was involved in a heated debate over building a new track at Heathrow Airport. He was furious about the plans that would affect his constituents. In fact, current plans, which are still a work in progress, would call for the diversion of rivers and roads, as well as the rerouting of a major highway.
During a statement by the Secretary for Transport, McDonnell rose from his seat and grabbed the mace, leaving it on an empty bench on the Labor side of the House. As he did so, he yelled: “It’s a shame for the democracy of this country.” He was angry that plans to expand Heathrow were being “demolished” without a vote by MPs in the House. McDonnell was suspended from Parliament for five days for his actions.
6 keith vaz
Sometimes it is not what MPs do inside the House that gets them suspended from Parliament, but what they do outside it, as was the case for Labor MP Keith Vaz. The former chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee (a body that assesses spending by the government’s immigration department) has been suspended from Parliament for six months after a shocking scandal.
In a journalistic investigation, it was reported that Vaz had met two men at her London flat to participate in a pay-for-sex arrangement. During the meeting, the Labor MP was covertly recorded, allegedly offering to buy illegal drugs for a third party. At the time, Vaz had claimed that he had met with the two men to discuss redecorating his apartment, but this was deemed not credible. Following a Commons Standards Body report, Vaz was suspended for six months for showing “contempt for the law” and “disrespect for the House.”
5 jonathan sayed
Conservative MP Jonathan Sayeed was suspended from Parliament for two weeks after it was revealed that he had used visits to Parliament to promote a business deal. The English Manner is the “UK’s leading institute of protocol and etiquette”, offering courses in dinner etiquette, elocution and afternoon tea. As part owner of The English Manner, Sayeed was even reported to have brought clients into the house, allowing them to dine in one of the private dining rooms to promote the company.
Sayeed claimed that he was merely showing tour groups around the House in his personal capacity and not for commercial purposes. However, this claim has been described as “hard to buy”, given that the company listed a “unique private tour and Champagne Reception with Senior Members of Parliament” on their website. A report by the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges concluded that Sayeed “had fallen far below the standards expected by the House and risked damaging his reputation.”
4 clive bets
In 2003, Labor MP Clive Betts was suspended from Parliament for a week for his part in an attempt to mislead British immigration officials. He had hired as an office assistant a Brazilian citizen, José Gasparo, who was in the UK on a student visa. However, with his visa about to expire, Gasparo and Betts took a vacation together so that Gasparo could reapply for a new student visa upon his return.
Toward the end of the vacation, Gasparo received a fax from a university that he hoped to use as proof of his student status for his visa application. However, the letter explicitly stated that it could not be used for this purpose. Distraught, Gasparo concealed this statement in the letter with white-out fluid, and Betts photocopied a duplicate of this document on the way to the airport. In a report by the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges, Betts was found to have acted “extremely foolish” and his acts “fell far below the standard expected of a Member”.
3 Conor Burns
Former Trade Secretary Conor Burns has been suspended from Parliament for seven days after intimidating a member of the public. The MP resigned from his post shortly after a report by the House of Commons Rules Committee. In February 2020, Burns had written to a person connected to a company with which Burns’s father was having a dispute over a loan. In the letter, Burns wrote that: “I am well aware that my role in the public eye could well attract interest, especially if I were to use parliamentary privilege to make the case.” Parliamentary privilege protects parliamentarians from being sued for defamation for speeches made in Parliament.
In its report, the Standards Committee noted that Burns had been under a “considerable degree of personal stress.” However, it concluded that since parliamentary privilege “is precious to our democracy”, there was no justification for using this privileged status to intimidate a member of the public. Therefore, there was a serious failure to “defend the values and principles of the Chamber.”
2 justin tomlinson
Another suspended MP from Parliament for his actions outside the House is Conservative MP Justin Tomlinson. Tomlinson, a former Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) minister responsible for disabled people, was suspended from the House for two days after leaking a confidential report. At the time, he was a member of the Public Accounts Committee, which was working on consumer credit regulation. Such regulation was particularly important to the disability community that Tomlinson was supposed to protect, as 18% of disabled people turned to payday loans.
However, in his self-proclaimed “clouded judgment,” Tomlinson shared the draft of the report with an employee of a payday lender, who responded with comments and suggested amendments. According to Parliamentary standards commissioner Kathryn Hudson, Tomlinson’s actions allowed the payday lender to influence the committee’s recommendations. He later made a “full and unreserved apology” for his actions.
1 Dennis Skinner (Again!)
It would be fair to end this list where it began: with controversial veteran Labor MP, Dennis Skinner (see #10). Several years before his “Dodgy Dave” insult, Skinner attacked the future prime minister’s close friend, George Osborne. In 2005, at a House debate on the UK economy, Skinner became angry when Osborne questioned the Labor government’s economic achievements.
Taking the floor, Skinner defended the government’s economic achievements, stating: “In the 1970s and much of the 1980s, we would have thanked our lucky stars in the coal country for 1.75 percent growth. The only thing that grew then were the lines of coke in front of the boy George. [Osborne] and the rest of them.” In making these comments, Skinner was referring to old photographs of Osborne next to a line of cocaine that had recently surfaced in the media. Skinner refused to withdraw his comment and was removed from the House.
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