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Dawn Butler: Why was Labour MP ordered to leave the Commons?

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In highly charged scenes on Thursday, the Labour MP Dawn Butler was ejected from the House of Commons after repeatedly refusing to withdraw an accusation that Boris Johnson is a liar.

“The prime minister has lied to this house time and time again,” she told the deputy speaker, Judith Cummins. When asked to “reflect on her words”, Ms Butler said: “It’s funny that we get in trouble in this place for calling out the lie, rather than the person lying.”

Going on to cite a popular social media video – a collection of statements made by Mr Johnson deemed untrue, including his claim that Britain’s Covid vaccination programme had “severed” the link between infections and serious illness or death – the Brent Central MP added she was “disappointed the prime minister has not come to the house to correct the record, and to correct the fact that he has lied to this house and the country over and over again”.

“It’s dangerous to lie in the pandemic,” she told Ms Cummins, who then intervened to twice ask her colleague to withdraw the charge of lying.

When Ms Butler refused, though, she was told to leave the Commons immediately and that she was suspended from business for the rest of the day.

Why was this allowed to happen?

Rest assured, this is not, as some people on social media thought last night, a policy created by Mr Johnson designed to oust anybody who speaks badly of him. It is actually a custom of the Commons itself, under rules about what is considered unparliamentary language.

As explained on the UK Parliament website, such language “breaks the rules of politeness in the House of Commons Chamber” and can lead to a member being asked to withdraw what was said or leave.

In a chamber where MPs must refer to each other as the “honourable member”, accusations of deliberate deceit and dishonesty are forbidden.

An official glossary of other terms not permitted by Speakers in recent years includes “blackguard”, “coward”, “git”, “guttersnipe”, “hooligan”, “rat” and “stool pigeon”.

What happens now?

Very little is the short answer. Parliament closed yesterday for its summer recess, with ministers and MPs scheduled to return to Westminster on 6 September.

Ms Butler will no doubt be back in the Commons as normal by then, as she signalled in a tweet after being asked to leave on Thursday.

“I have been thrown out of Parliament for saying what we all know: Boris Johnson has lied to the House of Commons and the country over and over again,” she wrote.

“But I’ve got news for the Tories, I will never stop speaking truth to power!”

A string of left-wing commentators and Labour MPs, including the party’s deputy leader, threw their support behind Ms Butler after the incident.

“Just to confirm, Boris Johnson is a liar regardless of who calls him a liar or where they call him a liar,” Angela Rayner said on Twitter.

Elsewhere, Scottish Labour’s Monica Lennon retweeted a clip of Ms Butler’s interaction with the deputy speaker – and her subsequent exit.

“Proud of my friend Dawn Butler,” the MSP wrote.

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