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John Bercow rebukes Michael Gove for accusing Andy Burnham of "rank hypocrisy"

Tim Montgomerie

According to the officlal UK Parliament website, "unparliamentary language" is defined as follows...

"Unparliamentary language breaks the rules of politeness in the House of Commons Chamber. Part of the Speaker's role is to ensure that MPs do not use insulting or rude language and do not accuse each other of lying, being drunk or misrepresenting each other's words. Words to which objection has been taken by the Speaker over the years include blackguard, coward, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, rat, swine, stoolpigeon and traitor. The Speaker will direct an MP who has used unparliamentary language to withdraw it. Refusal to withdraw a comment might lead to an MP being disciplined. MPs sometimes use considerable ingenuity to get around the rules; for example Winston Churchill famously used the phrase "terminological inexactitude" to mean "lie"."

Gove Looking Right Earlier today Michael Gove accused the Shadow Education Secretary, Andy Burnham, of "rank hypocrisy". The Speaker, John Bercow - who constantly rebukes Mr Gove for the smallest of reasons - has since ruled that this was unacceptable language and Mr Gove will have to apologise to the House.

Mr Burnham had attacked Michael Gove's plan for an English Baccalaureate of core subjects at GCSE:

"Are you really saying to young people and employers today that dead languages are more important than business studies, engineering, ICT, music and RE?

Gove replied:

"I am surprised you have the brass neck to stand here and say working-class children shouldn't study modern foreign languages, shouldn't study science, shouldn't study history and shouldn't study geography. If it is good enough for you, why shouldn't it be good enough for the likes of working class children elsewhere? Why are you pulling up the draw bridge on social mobility?... It's rank hypocrisy."

It was brilliantly delivered and exactly the sort of passion we need to see from our politicians.

If Mr Bercow really wants to see parliament respected he won't wrap debate in cotton wool... and as for unparliamentary behaviour, he should look closer to home.


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