10 shocking times British MPs were suspended from Parliament
Screams, personal insults and howls of laughter. Anyone who thought the British were a civilized bunch should tune in to Prime Minister’s Questions (LFM), a paid event in the House of Commons (House) which takes place every Wednesday at noon. PMQs are an opportunity for MPs representing constituents across the country to ask questions of the Prime Minister.
In theory, this sounds like a perfectly reasonable and civil case. 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 because of their behavior inside the House, but rather because of what they have done outside. Here are ten shocking moments when British MPs were suspended from Parliament.
ten Denis Skinner
Dennis Skinner kicked out of Commons for calling David Cameron ‘dodgy Dave’ – BBC News
Labor MP Dennis Skinner is a regular offender and has been suspended from Parliament on numerous occasions, most recently in 2016. As a man who struggles to bite his tongue, Skinner issued a statement to the House about the Panama Papers (millions of documents leaked in 2016 that revealed the financial practices of some of the world’s richest people). The Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, had been implicated in the newspapers.
Skinner asked the Prime Minister about a large sum of money he allegedly received when the mortgage was canceled on a London property. Throwing the question at the prime minister, he called him “dodgy Dave”. Accused of “unparliamentary language,” the Speaker of the House asked Skinner to remove the dubious adjective. Instead, Skinner reaffirmed his claims and, as a result, was kicked out of the chamber for the rest of the day.
9 Lloyd Russell-Moyle
Brexit: a British MP seizes a mace, expelled from parliament
An even more shocking moment in which an MP was kicked out of Parliament occurred in 2018 when Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a Labor MP, was kicked out of the House. On the day in question, MPs gathered to discuss a vote on then-Prime Minister (Theresa May)’s Brexit deal. The debate heated up after May overturned a vote on the deal to seek further assurances from the European Union.
Frustrated, Russell-Moyle grabs the ceremonial mass and proceeded to remove it from its support and step over. The mace is an ornamental silver-gilt club of considerable size and the symbol of royal authority, without which the House cannot meet or pass laws. ”
8 Ian Blackford
Ian Blackford told to quit Commons after saying Johnson lied about Covid lockdown parties
Another British MP who has been kicked out of Parliament on more than one occasion is the leader of the Scottish National Party in the House, Ian Blackford. Previously kicked out of Parliament in 2018, Blackford was kicked out of the House again most recently on 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 The 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 said Boris Johnson had “willfully misled Parliament” regarding the Partygate scandal. Under parliamentary rules, MPs are not allowed to accuse themselves of lying. The president gave Blackford the option of retracting his statement and replacing it with “unintentionally misled”. Blackford, however, refused to change its wording and was immediately asked to step down from the House. In the days that followed, Blackford reiterated his claims, saying Johnson was “not fit to be Prime Minister”.
seven John McDonnel
John McDonnell grabs a ceremonial mace in protest on Heathrow’s third runway
Like fellow Labor MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle (see #9), John McDonnell was also suspended from Parliament after taking the ceremonial mace. In 2009, McDonnell was embroiled in a heated debate over the construction of a new runway at Heathrow airport. He was exasperated by plans that would impact his constituents. Indeed, the current plans, which remain a work in progress, would require the diversion of rivers and roads as well as the diversion of a major highway.
During a statement from the Transport Secretary, McDonnell rose from his seat and grabbed the mace, placing it on an empty bench on the Labor side of the House. In doing so, he shouted: “It’s a shame for the democracy of this country”. He was angry that Heathrow’s expansion plans had been ‘bulldozed’ without a prior vote from MPs in the House. McDonnell was suspended from Parliament for five days for his actions.
6 Keith Vaz
Labor MP Keith Vaz faces suspension after drug and sex inquiry
Sometimes it is not what MPs do inside the House that causes them to be suspended from Parliament, but rather what they do outside, as was the case of Labor MP Keith Vaz . The former chairman of the home affairs select committee (a body that assesses the spending of the government’s immigration department) has been suspended from parliament for six months after a shocking scandal.
In a newspaper investigation, it was reported that Vaz had met two men at his London flat to engage in a paid sex arrangement. During the encounter, the Labor MP was secretly taped, allegedly offering to buy illegal drugs for a third party. At the time, Vaz claimed to have met with the two men to discuss redecorating his apartment, but it was not deemed credible. After a report by the Commons Standards Body, Vaz was suspended for six months for showing “contempt for the law” and “disrespect for the House”.
5 Jonathan Sayed
Top 5 Tips for a Flawless Dinner Party
Tory MP Jonathan Sayeed has been suspended from Parliament for two weeks after it was revealed he used visits from Parliament to promote a business. The English Manner is “the UK’s leading etiquette and protocol institute”, offering courses in culinary etiquette, elocution and afternoon tea. As co-owner of The English Manner, Sayeed reportedly even took customers into the house, allowing them to dine in one of the private dining rooms to promote the business.
Sayeed claimed that he was just showing tour groups around the house for personal purposes and not for commercial purposes. Still, this claim was described as “hard to buy,” given that the company listed a “unique private tour and Champagne Reception with Senior Members of Parliament” on its website. A report by the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges concluded that Sayeed “fallen well below the standards expected by the House and risked reputational damage”.
4 Clive Betts
In 2003 Labor MP Clive Betts was suspended from Parliament for a week for his involvement in an attempt to mislead UK immigration officials. He had hired a Brazilian national, Jose Gasparo, who was in the UK on a student visa, as an office assistant. However, with his visa expiring, Gasparo and Betts took a vacation together so that Gasparo could reapply for a student visa upon his return.
Near the end of the vacation, Gasparo received a fax from a college that he had 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. Distressed, Gasparo hid this statement on the letter with correction fluid, and Betts photocopied a duplicate of this document on the way to the airport. In a report by the Special Committee on Standards and Privileges, it was found that Betts had acted “extremely foolishly” and that his actions “fall well below the standard expected of a member”.
3 Conor Burns
Former trade minister Conor Burns has been suspended from Parliament for seven days after bullying a member of the public. The MP resigned from his post shortly after a report by the House of Commons Standards Committee. In February 2020, Burns had written to someone connected to a company that Burns’ father had a loan dispute with. In the letter, Burns wrote: “I am fully aware that my role in the public eye could well arouse interest, especially if I were to use parliamentary privilege to raise the matter. Parliamentary privilege protects Members from being sued for defamation for speeches in Parliament.
In its report, the Standards Committee noted that Burns had been subjected to a “considerable degree of personal stress”. Nonetheless, he concluded that since parliamentary privilege “is valuable to our democracy,” there was no justification for using this privileged status to intimidate a member of the public. Thus, there was a serious failure to “enforce the values and principles of the House”.
2 Justin Tomlinson
Another MP suspended from Parliament for his actions outside the House is Conservative MP Justin Tomlinson. A former Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) minister responsible for people with disabilities, Tomlinson 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 worked on consumer credit regulation. Such regulation was particularly important to the disability community that Tomlinson was meant to protect, with 18% of people with disabilities turning to payday loans.
Yet in his so-called “clouded judgment”, Tomlinson shared the draft report with a payday lender employee, who responded with comments and suggested changes. According to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Hudson, Tomlinson’s actions allowed the payday lender to influence the committee’s recommendations. He then offered a “full and unqualified apology” for his actions.
1 Dennis Skinner (again!)
Dennis Skinner coke jibe at George Osborne
It would be fair to end this list where it began: with controversial veteran Labor MP Dennis Skinner (see #10). Several years before his insult about “Dodgy Dave”, Skinner attacked the close friend of the future Prime Minister, George Osborne. In 2005, during a debate in the House concerning the British economy, Skinner grew irritated as Osborne questioned the economic achievements of the Labor government.
Speaking, Skinner defended the government’s economic achievements, saying, “In the 1970s and much of the 1980s, we would have thanked our lucky stars in the coalfields for 1.75% growth. The only thing growing then was the coke lines in front of boy George [Osborne] And the others. In making the remarks, Skinner was referring to old photographs of Osborne alongside a line of cocaine that had recently surfaced in the media. Skinner refused to withdraw his remark and was expelled from the House.
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