Labour MPs appalled by Mo Mowlam reference in Brexit secretary’s speech
PUBLISHED: 12:09 19 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:13 19 October 2019
The Brexit minister was greeted with cries of “how dare you” for invoking former Northern Ireland secretary, the late Mo Mowlam, in his speech in favour of Boris Johnson’s deal.
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Steven Barclay was criticised for suggesting that Mowlam, who oversaw the process of the Good Friday Agreement, would want to "move forward" by voting for the deal.
The safeguarding of the peacekeeping truce overseen by the former Labour minister has been a key concern in the Brexit negotiations and the government's Brexit proposals have been accused of undermining it.
But Barclay made the tone-deaf comments as he introduced the prime minister's motion for the deal, saying: "Today is the time for this house to come together and move forward.
"Someone who previously did that, and who many members of the house will still remember, was the former secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam."
In a jab at Corbynite Labour campaign group Momentum, he said her biography had had the same name "in the days before it was a faction forcing out its own colleagues".
But John Bercow, the speaker of the house had to intervene and call order as cries of "how dare you" came from the opposition benches.
"Thank you Mr Speaker, it was the spirit of bringing people together that I was paying tribute to," said Barclay, as opposition MPs shouted "no you weren't".
"And after 1,213 days and frequent debates in this chamber, now is the time for this house to move forward," said Barclay.
Labour MP Paul Sweeney called it "crass in the extreme".
He tweeted: "Crass in the extreme. Mo Mowlam would have never backed a deal that will lead to a hard border down the Irish Sea and threaten the peace in Northern Ireland."
Commentators were surprised at the intervention. "He is not even fit to utter Mowlam's name," tweeted Jonathan Lis.
"Steve Barclay mentioning Mo Mowlam is a very poor move as the immediate reaction shows," said Jacobin writer Dawn Foster.
Mowlam, who died of a brain tumour in 2001, held critical views of EU processes and institutions but enthusiastically campaigned as part of Britain in Europe, which argued for the UK to join the euro.
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