In efforts to cool tempers in the British parliament during a recent round of heated debate the country’s speaker admonished UK MPs for failing to set a good example for visiting Lebanese politicians.
“I appeal to colleagues to take account of the fact that we are visited by a distinguished group of Lebanese parliamentarians,” Mr Bercow chided MPs during the first session of Prime Minister’s Questions under arch Brexiteer Boris Johnson.
“We’d like to set them a good example. I am not sure at the moment how impressed they will be,” the speaker went on.
The Lebanese lawmakers, not unfamiliar themselves with knockabout parliamentary proceedings, were given a front-row seat to one of the most explosive and indecorous days in the Commons in recent memory. Britons regularly like to refer to their legislature as the mother of all parliaments. The Lebanese delegates had been invited to the mother of all slanging matches.
The leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn called the prime minister Boris Johnson “desperate” and accused him of duplicity but the most acid lines were reserved for the shadow chancellor John McDonnell.
“The last time he shouted at someone they had to call the police,” Mr McDonnell said, referring to a notorious incident in which the police were called to Mr Johnson’s house over the summer following a row he’d had with his girlfriend Carrie Symonds.
For his own part, Mr Johnson used particularly course language and at one point referred to his opposite number as a “chlorinated chicken”.
In the cut and thrust of Wednesday’s exchanges, however, it was perhaps Labour MP for Slough Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi’s remarks, his first as an MP to the house, that hit the prime minister the hardest.
"For those of us who have had to endure and face up to being called names such as 'towel head' or 'Taliban' or 'coming from Bongo Bongo Land', we can appreciate full well the hurt and pain felt by already vulnerable Muslim women when they are described as bank robbers and letterboxes," Mr Dhesi said referring to an infamous column Mr Johnson wrote for the Telegraph in August 2015.
The delegation also witnessed another first as Layla Morgan, an MP of Palestinian descent, became the fist UK lawmaker to wear a kuffiyeh in parliament.
Away from PMQs The Lebanese MPs, the head of the Lebanese parliament’s foreign affairs committee Yassin Jaber, Tripoli MP and former finance minister Nicholas Nahas, and Jezzine MP Ibrahim Azar have met with Mr Bercow and MP Sir John Hayes as well as other officials and MPs.
Chris Doyle, the director of The Council for Arab-British Understanding who met with the delegation on Tuesday, told The National the Lebanese MPs had been keen to build bilateral ties with Britain while discussing a number of regional and internal challenges facing Lebanon. They also endeavoured to understand Brexit.
“Lebanon still sees itself as having an extremely good relationship with Britain. Britain has been extremely supportive in a number of sectors including in handling support for Syrian refugees and also support for the Lebanese Army and the education sector,” Mr Doyle said.
“I think there is a recognition of the strengths and effectiveness of that relationship,” he added.