• First Oakville Toastmasters

The Chair Gets Away With What The Chair Gets Away With

You’ve heard this said before often by the evening’s Parliamentarian commenting on a decision made by the chair during the business session: “The chair gets away with what the chair gets away with.”

So what does this mean?

Today we can thank the British House of Commons and more specifically the present day Speaker, John Bercow who has against parliamentary advice allowed for an amendment to a motion regarding Brexit (Britain’s exit from the European Union) that some say puts even democracy in danger. Here’s a link to the story in today’s National Post.

You see, the Speaker got away with what he got away with and that was the unprecedented decision to allow an amendment to a government business motion concerning Brexit. You see history and precedent (the foundation of democratic decision-making) did not allow for amendments to such motions (at least that was the view of the government and senior advisors to the Speaker.)

The amendment requires Prime Minister May to return to Parliament within three days, rather than 21, to debate the implications of not having a Brexit deal, if the Prime Minister’s proposals are voted down next week.

Despite furious opposition, Speaker Bercow was defended by Labour MPs and even some Tories and the amendment was passed by 308 votes to 297. The vote allows for the potential of alternatives to the Prime Minister May’s plans to Brexit including the possibility of a managed no-deal or even another (second) referendum.

But for now, regardless of what happens in the future, the Speaker appears to have gotten away with what the Speaker gets away with and democracy itself may suffer.

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