James Forsyth

The lockdown delay has triggered a constitutional crisis

(Photo by Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament)
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It is not the Battle of Marston Moor, but it strikes me that we are now in something of a constitutional crisis following the Speaker’s dramatic outburst this afternoon. In response to points of order about the fact Boris Johnson is announcing lockdown changes in a press conference rather than to parliament, Hoyle said that he had been told no decisions had been taken only to find out that there was an embargoed document setting out what changes were coming. A visibly furious Hoyle declared from the chair that: ‘This House is being misled’.

Considering that misleading the House is a resigning matter, this is a remarkably serious accusation for the Speaker to level against Downing Street. It is not hard to follow it through to its logical conclusion; and I cannot think of a previous example of a Speaker accusing No. 10 of misleading the House. It is another sign of how bad relations between the Speaker and the Prime Minister have become.

Hoyle threatened to find ‘other avenues’ of holding the government to account if No. 10 continued to ride roughshod over the Commons. It remains to be seen what tools Hoyle has at his disposal given the government’s majority. But it seems certain that government ministers will have a tougher time from the chair from now on.