The House of Commons often rises early these days, with little in the way of legislation to keep MPs busy. Ministers spend more of their time answering repetitive urgent questions than they do piloting bills through the Commons. So it was an odd sensation to see MPs debating something at length, with detailed speeches and an extensive debate. Ah, of course – they were talking about themselves: what else? Yesterday afternoon’s debate was on the Privileges Committee special report on the ‘campaign’ against that Committee by supporters of Boris Johnson.
The debate had a motion laid by Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt which said ‘where the House has agreed to refer a matter relating to individual conduct to the Committee of Privileges, Members of this House should not impugn the integrity of that Committee or its members or attempt to lobby or intimidate those members or to encourage others to do so, since such behaviour undermines the proceedings of the House and is itself capable of being a contempt’. Mordaunt herself said in her closing speech that while this was one of those motions that MPs had to make their own minds up on, this was about how members looked after one another and the integrity of parliament itself. In her opener, she said she hoped the debate would be the ‘end of this sorry affair’.
Many – though not all – of the MPs named in that special report had plenty to say for themselves. Jacob Rees-Mogg went into the footnotes of Erskine May at one point, while Priti Patel ended up suggesting that a Labour MP, Toby Perkins, should probably leave the Chamber if he didn’t understand what she’d been talking about for the past 40 minutes. The arguments of Patel, Rees-Mogg, Andrea Jenkyns and others were largely that MPs need to be able to criticise one another and examine the quality of their work.