The GardenA blog by yours truly

Bog trotters, heart attacks, and a paranoid Auntie

Via Hansard, the official record of British parliamentary business, then鈥揕abour MP Joe Ashton informs us of the sort of nonsense that went on when the government had a majority of minus seventeen:

We used to have a bog trotter. When the Division bell rang, we had a top and bottom bog trotter whose job it was to run around all the toilets to see if anyone was locked in. We had to look under the door for feet and, if seen, we looked over the top. If that person was one of theirs we left him, if it was one of ours, we got him out鈥夆斺塱f necessary with a screwdriver to unlock the door from the outside. That was the sort of nonsense that occurred when the House divided.

I remember the famous case of Leslie Spriggs, the then Member for St. Helens. We had a tied vote and he was brought to the House in an ambulance having suffered a severe heart attack. The two Whips went out to look in the ambulance and there was Leslie Spriggs laid there as though he was dead. I believe that John Stradling Thomas said to Joe Harper, 鈥淗ow do we know that he is alive?鈥 So he leaned forward, turned the knob on the heart machine, the green light went around, and he said, 鈥淭here, you've lost鈥夆斺塱t's 311.鈥 That is an absolutely true story. It is the sort of nonsense that used to happen. No one believes it, but it is true.


When Parliament was first broadcast, for the first three days the BBC broadcast everything that came through the loudspeakers. It was libellous, it was unbelievably crude, but it was hilarious. The BBC panicked and said, 鈥淪omebody will sue us for libel. If it is in Hansard it is okay, but if it is not in Hansard we will be done for libel.鈥 So the BBC stopped broadcasting everything; now, it jams the broadcast so all people hear is, 鈥淗ear, hear, hear.鈥 It is terrified of being sued for libel.

This stems from a 1997 debate on the modernisation of parliamentary procedure. More anecdotes from the same speech can be found on the other side of the link.

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