Is it true that a huge brawl once broke out among MPs in the House of Commons in the 19th century?

Answered by Eugene Byrne, author and journalist

Illustration by Glen McBeth

The proceedings of the House have always been rowdy, but rarely degenerate into outright fisticuffs. The episode you’re probably thinking of took place on the evening of 27 July 1893, during William Gladstone’s final administration.

On the night in question, an ill-tempered debate on the Home Rule Bill ended with ‘Liberal unionist’ Joseph Chamberlain likening Gladstone to King Herod. An Irish nationalist compared Chamberlain to Judas, an insult which Conservative and unionist members demanded be withdrawn. The speaker ignored this, and ordered the House to divide, but several opposition members stayed put in protest.

JW ‘Paddy’ Logan, the Liberal MP for Harborough, crossed over and sat on the opposition benches and proceeded to argue with prominent unionist Edward Carson. William Hayes Fisher (Con, Fulham), sitting behind, grabbed Logan’s collar in an attempt to push him away. Some Irish nationalist MPs waded in to save Logan, while a small but determined band of Tories and unionists stood their ground.

The fracas went on for several minutes, but the serjeant-at-arms eventually restored order, assisted by other members and accompanied by hisses at the members’ conduct from the public gallery.

The following day, MPs turned up at Westminster to be taunted by groups of jeering lads indulging in mock fisticuffs. Logan and Fisher apologised for their conduct and a proposed inquiry was quietly dropped as everyone wanted to forget the embarrassing episode as quickly as possible.

Answered by: Eugene Byrne, author and journalist

  • Article Type: | Q&A |
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