Turning the tide

Taste the irony: in the final Today in Parliament (Friday 27th, BBC Radio 4, 23.30 GMT) of this parliament, William Hague reflects on the persuasive power of oratory, and how it can visibly swing opinion in the House of Commons.

Today, he was on the receiving end of that phenomenon, as backbench stalwart Charles Walker nailed him, with a quite extraordinary speech.

As Chair of the Commons Procedure Select Committee, Mr Walker was opposing the government motion for a decision at the start of new Parliament, on whether the sitting Speaker should resume the Chair, should be taken by a secret ballot.

His opposition was less about the substance of the issue and more about the way it had been sprung onto the Commons agenda. He accused the government of attempting to put the motion after opposition MPs had been lulled into going home.

He complained that, despite all kinds of encounters with people who knew about the motion, he was not told about it.

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Farewell, Speaker Bercow?

What a week - first Clarkson, then Zayn, and now Bercow?

There was a certain tension in the air last night, as Mr Speaker Bercow presided at a farewell dinner for Deputy Speaker Dawn Primarolo; later today she'll probably be presiding over a short Commons debate that might decide whether the Speaker will need a farewell dinner of his own….

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Week ahead

These are strange days in Westminster.

This week's Budget was pretty much the last significant event of the Parliament and the place has emptied out since it was unveiled.

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A giggly farce

Oh dear. The Lib Dems' attempt at a bit of Budget differentiation from their Conservative partners this morning turned into a rather giggly farce.

The wheeze was for Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury to deliver a kind of Lib Dem alternative budget - but it got off to a rocky start, with the Speaker noting pointedly that his permission had not been required, but that the statement had to be ministerial, not personal or party, and delivered on behalf of the government….and the privilege of delivering statements should not be abused for purely party purposes.

Danny Alexander outside the Treasury

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Week ahead

We're really into the last rites now.

The Budget and the ensuing debate on it dominate the week's proceedings in the Commons - but there are some important odds and ends that the business managers seem keen to deal with before Parliament dissolves.

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Will Lord Saatchi try again?

One of the most intriguing parliamentary sagas of the last couple of years has been that of the Medical Innovation Bill, aka the Saatchi Bill.

The Conservative peer, Lord Saatchi, has been pushing for a change in the law to allow doctors more flexibility to depart from standard practice and to administer innovative treatments.

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Cracks in the PAC?

Are end-of-Parliament cracks appearing in the Commons in-house inquisition, the Public Accounts Committee?

For almost five years, the formidable Labour ex-minister Margaret Hodge has duffed up bureaucrats and titans of industry, making real waves with her campaign against tax avoidance, which saw companies like Amazon given a very uncomfortable time, and, on one occasion, a top official from HMRC required to take the oath, when committee members became visibly impatient with his evidence….

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Game over

For this Parliament, the game is over.

Last Friday saw the end of the Commons private members' bill process, until the next crop appear, after the election, probably in September or October. But there will be a difference because the PMB process has been weaponised.

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Week ahead

It's a week of farewells, loose ends and guerrilla warfare.

US and British soldiers chat at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan
The week's debate on defence spending could provide a flashpoint on Thursday in the Commons

We will see the (likely) final Commons speeches of Gordon Brown and Jack Straw, the completion (or maybe defeat) of a myriad of private members' bills - plus a series of tussles between ministers and backbenchers over plain packaging of cigarettes, EU issues and defence spending.

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Week ahead

There's a certain amount of fag-end legislating, next week, as MPs and Peers put the finishing touches to several bills.

The most interesting action may be the debates on some important policy issues highlighted by select committees. I'm particularly interested in the debate on the Health Committee's report on children's and adolescents' mental health, which argues for a major re-balancing of the way the NHS mental health budget is spent.

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