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Headbutts, flying fists on tap at British House of Commons

Traffic passes by the House of Parliament in central London, Monday Nov. 21, 2005.


On Wednesday morning, Canada's Speaker of the House Andrew Scheer was in the midst of a very Canadian debate over whether to allow babies in the House of Commons.

That evening he got a taste of the far more grownup world of Britain's Parliament.

Eric Joyce, a Labour MP for Falkirk, went on a violent rampage against Tory MPs and was arrested. He reportedly began dancing erratically before shouting a disparaging remark about the Tories, dumping drinks on some fellow members, swinging his fists at several MPs who tried to calm him down, including Labour whip Phil Wilson.

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He then headbutted Stuart Andrew, the Tory MP for Pudsey, punched a few more people, and headbutted the MP again.

"There was blood spilled – it was like the Wild West in there," one MP told the Evening Standard.

It took five security officers to calm the overexcited MP, according to the Evening Standard. He was arrested on suspicion of assault and on Thursday morning was suspended from the Labour caucus. The British Speaker of the House, John Bercow, told reporters he would take the incident "very seriously."

According to British newspapers, Mr. Scheer was part of a Canadian delegation invited to visit Strangers, one of several drinking establishments inside the House of Commons. (Mr. Scheer couldn't be reached for comment Thursday as he was flying back to Canada.)

Although Mr. Scheer was not a witness to the incident, he was there as a guest earlier in the evening and read about the incident in the morning papers.

Heavy drinking is considered a serious problem in Britain's Parliament. There are bars adjoining the Commons and Lords chambers, which are packed before and after sittings; it is widely reported that some MPs have numerous drinks before attending sittings – even in the morning. Stories about drunken brawls and misbehaviour among parliamentarians abound.

For Mr. Scheer, visiting from a House of Commons whose disorder is usually confined to its benches, it must have been an enlightening moment. Then again he was officially in London with a delegation whose topics included "violence in Somalia."

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They got a taste much closer to home.

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About the Author
International-Affairs Columnist

Doug Saunders writes the Globe and Mail's international-affairs column, and also serves as the paper's online opinion and debate editor. He has been a writer with the Globe since 1995, and has extensive experience as a foreign correspondent, having run the Globe's foreign bureaus in Los Angeles and London.He was born in Hamilton, Ontario, and educated in Toronto. More

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