Dot Commons Diary: John Bercow denies John Hayes job of 'style policeman'

Posted On: 
6th July 2017

Since John Bercow’s announcement that male MPs do not have to wear ties in the Commons, the response has been mixed. 

John Bercow wearing gold
Credit: 
PA Images

Any hope that the ruling might be reversed was scotched today when the Speaker warned Parliamentarians that they must not “discriminate on the basis of attire” in deciding whether to give way or not.

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake – whose tieless appearance prompted the initial rule change – was behind the latest intervention too.

He asked about the actions of John Hayes, who opened his speech on Monday that he would not be taking interventions from those too “sartorially challenged or inadequate” to wear a tie (though he did bring a spare with him).

The open-collared Brake quipped: “Do you think that there is a risk of a slippery slope which might lead that Member to refuse to take interventions from Members who are sartorially challenged in other ways, such as a gaudy tie or a garish waistcoat?”

Bercow was rather merciless in his response – and suggested Hayes should not expect a shift from the Department of Transport to “style policeman” any time soon.

“There will be many members who are aware that I have known [Hayes] for three decades, that I enjoy his company, and that I can often be observed chortling at some of his literary and philosophical references in the course of his orations in the Chamber. Those orations are always enormously enjoyed – not least by the Rt Hon Gentleman himself.

“I rather thought that what he had to say on this matter was proffered in his characteristically jocular fashion. However, insofar as I could be said to have received an application from the Right Hon Gentleman by virtue of his pronouncement for the role of style policeman, I can tell [Brake] and all Members of the House that I have filed the application from the Right Hon Member for South Holland and The Deepings for that post in the appropriate place.”

As to whether the Hayes Rule would be acceptable, Bercow was rather blunt.

“I am confident that no Member, in making that decision, would in any way discriminate on the basis of the attire of the colleague seeking to intervene any more than he or she would do so on the basis of a Member’s age or gender. It would, indeed, have been quite wrong of anyone to do so.”