Not only in India: British MP in parliament protest

January 16th, 2009 - 5:51 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 16 (IANS) The British government’s controversial decision to allow the construction of a new airport in Heathrow without a debate in parliament on its climate change implications so angered an MP he did an Indian-type protest. After heated exchanges with a government minister Thursday, ruling Labour Party MP John McDonnell grabbed the ceremonial mace in the lower house of parliament and placed it on the empty Labour front bench.

“It’s a disgrace to the democracy of this country!” he shouted, before leaving the chamber.

The ornate gilt mace is placed on a table in front of the Speaker at the start of proceedings every day, symbolising the sovereign authority of the House.

McDonnell, the first MP in more than 20 years to take out his frustration on the ceremonial mace, was suspended from parliament for five days as a punishment but protested his innocence.

“Thousands of my constituents will lose their homes if this goes ahead,” said McDonnell, who represents a west London constituency close to Heathrow airport.

“The government said we could have a debate and I was really pleased but then the Secretary of State (for transport Geoff Hoon) said ‘no, there will be no vote’.

“I simply asserted the right of MPs to vote on this issue and took the traditional route which dates back to Cromwell’s days in which I lifted the mace and placed it on the benches.

“This isn’t a party political issue.”

Unlike the Indian parliament, such acts of defiance are rare in the British House of Commons, which is known more for the quality of its debate than walk-outs.

In 1988, fiery left-wing Labour MP Ron Brown grabbed the mace and threw it on the floor to protest Conservative plans to introduce local taxes, breaking it in the process. He was suspended and ordered to pay 1,000 pounds for its repair.

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