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Thursday 13th January 2011 | 12:35
Tory MP Mark Pritchard is not one to swear. In fact he's ribbed by colleagues in the Tea Room for saying "Schmidt" instead of sh*t.
But today, he exploded when the Commons Speaker confronted him over an alleged breach of the courtesies of the House.
It all started when Pritchard got to his feet towards the end of Business Questions. As he rose, the Tory backbencher was told by John Bercow that as he was not present for the beginning of Sir George Young's business statement, he could not ask a question.
Pritchard was furious because he actually had been present for the start of the session at 11.30am and had been seated between Des Swaine and Peter Bone. However, he left the chamber for five minutes to go to the loo between noon and 12.05, before returning.
To register his anger at not being allowed to ask a question, Pritchard immediately wrote a letter of complaint, explaining why the Speaker was wrong (including the toilet break). He went to the Speaker's office to submit the letter.
But, several minutes later, on walking back along the corridor behind the Speaker's chair, the Tory MP then encountered Mr Bercow walking towards him with his usual formal entourage.
The Speaker then stopped and pointed at Pritchard and said: "The courtesy of the House is that Honourable Members should stand aside when the Speaker passes by".
Pritchard was so outraged at this further slight that he replied: "Mr Speaker, don't point at me. I am not here to be abused by you."
Bercow countered: "You will obey the courtesies of the House!"
To which Pritchard replied with the immortal line: "You are not fucking royalty, Mr Speaker!"
Pritchard then walked off.
[UPDATE] A beetroot-faced Speaker then tried to have the last line. He told a disappearing Pritchard: "Well..a good morning to you, Sir!"
It was high drama and witnessed by several colleagues.
I've just been on the phone to Mr Pritchard to check this sequence of events. He tells me:
"I have not been sent to Parliament to be abused by anybody. When somebody abuses me in this House, they are abusing my constituents."
Pritchard - deputy chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee - is already being lauded by colleagues for lashing out at the "purple plotters" who want to merge the Tories and Lib Dems.
But his hero status among fellow Conservatives has probably just been enhanced even further. Let's not forget he's in good company on this issue.
Both Health minister Simon "Dwarfs" Burns and the Government Chief Whip have had their rows with Mr Speaker. Speaking of which, let's see that footage again...
UPDATE: Thanx to Guido and Ben Brogan for their generous links. It looks like Pritchard is indeed being lauded by his peers. One Tory says the Palace may knight him. Another says: "The Palace are amused, rather than not amused"
FURTHER UPDATE: I've now been told the Speaker's final remark as Pritchard walked off. See above.
Apparently, T-shirts with the phrase "You're not fucking royalty, Mr Speaker!" have already been printed.
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