Walking down the back of the Speaker’s Chair corridor at 11pm one night last week, I encountered the Speaker.
He had just finished sitting in the Chair for an adjournment debate.
It is a tradition that, if the Speaker is walking down a corridor, MPs stop immediately with backs against the wall and eyes diverted.
Frequently a member from the Sergeant at Arms department will shout ‘Speaker’ in a very loud and elongated manner prior to the Speaker leaving his office. This is to warn us all that the Speaker is on his way, and to clear out of the corridor quickly.
The practice of standing still, if you can’t get out of the way, and the clearing of the corridor is a seriously enforced tradition. Police are situated around every corner who shout ‘Speaker’ at you, if you are moving into a corridor the Speaker is moving along.
When the Speaker came into the corridor the other night, I kept on walking. I even smiled and said good evening to the Mace bearer, who looked so shocked I thought he was going to drop the Mace.
This incensed the Speaker, who I heard turn and complain, in a very loud voice, about what I had just done. I caught the word ‘she’ repetitively and loudly.
My response: if you want to drop the tradition of wearing the Speaker’s dress, then don’t expect me to honour the tradition of standing still in the corridor when you move along it. You don’t pick and choose traditions. If you do you begin to erode away at what brings millions of pounds into this country each year via our tourism economy. You erode the authority of the Speaker’s chair and, by doing so, erode the authority of Parliament itself.
So, I call upon my colleagues to join me. Don’t clear the corridor; walk with your head high. Look him in the eye and if he loses his rag, as he did with me the other night, then maybe he will realise that deciding which traditions to honour, or not, is not entirely within his remit.