Is Labour seriously contemplating a motion of no confidence in Speaker of the House Lockwood Smith? Or is Trevor Mallard just letting off some steam?
After Tuesday's bust-up in the House between Mallard and Prime Minister John Key, Mallard got tossed from the House for 24 hours by Smith for calling Key a liar and then refusing to apologise.
Mallard got angry because technically he only said Key's "nose was growing longer'' not that he was a liar - which is not allowed in Parliament.
But anyone who's read their children's fables knows that to say someone's nose is growing is to call them a liar.
Now, I agree with Mallard on the substance of the issue he was debating with the Prime Minister. I don't believe it is sufficient for Key to simply say he's not going to reveal his reasons for sacking Richard Worth because it wouldn't be in the public interest to do so.
The public interest is an arguable proposition at the best of times, but even assuming there was such a thing, the Government could use it to cover any number of sins it didn't want published.
There are all kinds of things the Government probably doesn't want the public to know, but whether that means it would be damaging to the public interest if we did know is quite another matter.
I think that should probably be confined to matters of security or involving the nation's defence or economy. I doubt Richard Worth's private liaisons fall into that category.
However, that doesn't excuse Mallard challenging Smith's decision to toss him from the Chamber. Perhaps the Labour MP got the short end of the stick - Smith already had trigger-finger from earlier exchanges during Question Time.
But to argue, as Mallard did, that it was "the most blatantly biased decision of the year'' is taking things way too far.
Initially Mallard seemed to be suggesting taking a motion of no-confidence in the Speaker, but later said on his blog that Labour would "wait for a better case''.
I think he and his colleagues need to draw a deep breath and wait for a considerably better case.
Lockwood Smith is the best thing to happen to Opposition parties since Question Time was invented. He is easily the most fair, unbiased, and straightforward Speaker Parliament has had in years.
In sports parlance, he's a ref who plays advantage and isn't always on the whistle. When Mallard took a frankly pathetic point of order yesterday to complain that Key wasn't addressing the chair when he was speaking, but had his back to him, Smith shut him down quick-smart, saying he was more interested in what the Prime Minister was saying than how he was standing.
That's what I like about Lockwood Smith. He doesn't suffer foolish or pedantic points of order. He's all but stamped out the tabling of press releases. He requires ministers to answer, not just address the question. And he doesn't yell "order'' every five seconds for some minor transgression.
As a result, I think Parliament is a much more smooth-running and frankly democractic place.
Smith has thrown out far fewer MPs so far than his predecessor Margaret Wilson, and it was always odds-on that Mallard would be the one to finally go.
Overall, Labour should thank its lucky stars Lockwood Smith is the Speaker and quit moaning. In the unlikely event it did force a vote of no confidence, who would replace him? Is there anyone who would be any better?
I doubt it.
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