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20th November
Updated from time to time

Speaker bans Cameron from asking Blair questions

Commons Speaker Michael "Tight Lips" Martin sparked uproar at prime minister's questions on Wednesday by stopping David Cameron asking Tony Blair questions. In an almost unprecedented move, Mr Martin told the Tory leader he can no longer ask any questions. At all.

Mr Cameron hit back saying: "Mr Speaker, are you honestly saying we cannot ask the prime minister of the country questions..." before being interrupted by Mr Martin poking him with a sharpened stick.

Amid rowdy scenes with MPs shouting, Mr Martin threatened to suspend the sitting and wash their mouths out. Struggling to be heard above the noise, he then attempted to explain the ruling. "He has no right to ask the floor of this house at Prime Minister's Question Time, questions which may, or may not, require an answer that the question would be answered by," he explained.

'Bizarre'

Mr Cameron, whose original, interrupted, question had not ended with a question mark, replied: "Perhaps I could just with my last breath, ask the prime minister who he would like to see as the next prime minister of this country?"

Shouting "Order! Order!" as the House once more erupted, Mr Martin told the Tory leader: "I'll disallow that. That's well out of order. That's a direct question, and that's now banned."

Mr Blair then heaped praise on the Chancellor for delivering the lowest inflation, lowest unemployment and lowest interest rates in the country's history (since last time) and asked the Speaker, a former Labour MP, whether he wanted the money in the usual cash-in-an-envelope or honours in lieu. Then he put his MP3 back on, and went back to his Soduko.

Mr Cameron's spokesman said he would be taking the matter up with the Opposition Whips' office, as soon as Conservatives were given the new door codes to get back into the building. He described Mr Martin's intervention as "bizarre and extraordinary", and his nose as "very red and shiny".

Neutral as Italy

But Conservative sources said it was "unlikely" that an official challenge would be mounted, as 'mounting' is also now specifically banned within the chamber, John Prescott excepted.

The Speaker has the job of presiding over debates in the Commons and has also rebuked Mr Blair in recent weeks for quizzing Mr Cameron over his policies, by saying, "Tsk, Tsk, come on Tone, play fair, you know he hasn't got any."

Michael "Red Pants" Martin, who was elected as a Labour MP but whose role requires him to be politically neutral, became Speaker in 2000. The Glaswegian former sheet metal worker's election broke convention as its saw Labour retain the speakership for a second time, but after a twelve-round contest with no falls or submissions, he won on a split decision and retained the belt.
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