The “Poppadom Plot” in the Kennington Tandoori, a short taxi ride from Parliament, between the Father of the House and Speaker, comes ahead of crucial votes on Thursday as Remainers prepare a late bid to stop no-deal or force a second referendum. Last night the Government confirmed that it will commit to another vote on a “revised” deal by February 27 as nervous ministers try to see off a Tory Remainer alliance with Labour and the SNP to stop Brexit. This in effect sets a timetable for the UK and EU to come up with a deal before the end of this month.
Concerns had already been raised by Brexiteers that Mr Bercow has changed parliamentary rules in an apparent bid to help Remainers thwart Brexit or force a second referendum.
Now exchanges that witnesses claim to have overheard between the Speaker and Mr Clarke have led to speculation the two were colluding.
Onlookers described how Mr Clarke wandered in at 7.45pm on Wednesday, while many Tory MPs were at the annual Black and White Ball fundraiser.
The veteran MP and former Cabinet minister sat in the corner, ordering a beer. At around 8pm Mr Bercow arrived and the two started conversations, ordering poppadoms, naan bread, lamb curry and beer.
DINNER DATE… Bercow and Clarke leave the curry house
The ‘poppadom plot’ comes ahead of Thursday’s vote to stop no-deal
According to eyewitness reports, after a long discussion on Brexit, Mr Bercow was heard asking: “Where do we go from here?” Mr Clarke responded: “I’m talking to [Brexit committee chairman and Labour Remainer] Hilary Benn on Tuesday.”
Tory Brexiteer MP Andrew Bridgen, a long-term critic of the Speaker, lambasted the meeting.
Branding Bercow and Clarke “the Tandoori traitors”, he said: “The Poppadom Plot is part of the Remainer elites trying to overturn the democratic will of the British people.”
He added: “It appears that the Speaker is conspiring with Remainer MPs to stop Brexit and subvert democracy.
“The Speaker must be removed immediately before he can do any more damage to the reputation of Parliament.”
The revelations have prompted concerns at a high level in the Government. A Cabinet source said: “It is vital that the role of the Speaker remains neutral. The chair must give equal weight to all arguments and to all members of Parliament.”
Several other Brexiteers feared they would not be called to speak if they publicly criticised Mr Bercow.
One Tory MP, who for that reason refused to go on the record, said: “Clearly, Bercow, Clarke, Grieve and others are doing everything they possibly can to undermine the Government.
Mr Bercow was accused of conspiring with remainers last month
“Basically, there is a concerted attempt by Conservative and opposition MPs, and by the Speaker, to try to prevent Brexit from happening.”
Last month Mr Bercow was accused of conspiring with Remainers to stop Brexit after he apparently ignored the expert advice of the clerk of the House in allowing Tory Remainer Dominic Grieve to table an amendment to a Government motion which had been understood to be untouchable.
The row, which saw demands for Mr Bercow to resign and ended up with more than an hour of points of order from furious Brexiteers, saw the Speaker unilaterally reinterpret the word “forthwith” in a motion which had previously meant no amendment could be brought forward.
The amendment was successful and opened the door for Remainers and Labour to stop Brexit or take control of the process from the Government.
It was alleged that Mr Grieve had held a meeting with the Speaker before the decision was reached.
Previously, Mr Bercow allowed another motion which forced the Government to publish full legal advice at the behest of Remainers in a move which potentially undermines protection of legally confidential and security advice.
The machinations by the Speaker have given rise to claims that he is working with Remainers to stop Brexit.
There has been anger that Bercow’s wife Sally’s car has anti-Brexit bumper stickers on it and after the referendum the Speaker gave a speech to students where he confirmed he voted Remain.
Attempts to remove Mr Bercow from his role have failed because Labour MPs have combined with Tory Remainers and some of his older friends to ensure he stays on, despite strong accusations that he bullied staff.
A spokeswoman for the Speaker said: “The Speaker socialises over dinner with friends from across the House on a regular basis.
“We’re not in the business of commenting on private conversations.” And a spokeswoman for Mr Clarke said: “He has no comment to make except to say that he has no plans to meet Hilary Benn on Tuesday or any other day. Nor was he discussing possible tactics or procedures with the Speaker. He says that you have been misinformed.”
The Sunday Express attempted to contact Mr Benn but he was not available for comment.
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The Kennington Tandoori, located within easy reach of the Houses of Parliament, is a political institution.
MEETING POINT.. The politicians’ met at the Kennington Tandoori
On a weekday evening you may well find MPs, political staffers and hacks in there enjoying a curry.
Its place in the Westminster universe was confirmed during Prime Minister’s Questions in 2014 when Speaker John Bercow slapped down a noisy MP, saying: “When you’re eating curry in the Kennington Tandoori, you don’t yell across the table.”
On David Cameron’s final full day in office, the restaurant tweeted it had delivered a “last supper” to No 10.
Its decision to overhaul its menu was the talk of the political village last year.
The management decided to hold an in/out referendum, giving diners a choice of an old and new-style korma.
The rebooted curry won. Since the restaurant opened its doors in 1985 it has found fans from across the political divide.
Tory Ken Clarke’s fondness for the establishment is no secret but it was also known as a haunt of the late Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy and Labour’s Lord Prescott.