In the wake of Andrew Lansley's announcement of the new plans for the NHS reorganization, John found his inbox had been inundated with complaints from irate Labour MPs about everything from the timing of Andrew’s statement to the probability of the legislation going before committee. Very little of it was anything he could rule on. He was so absorbed in resisting the urge to send a mass email to the entire House of Commons outlining in words of one or two syllables the duties of the Speaker that the knock on his open door made him jump six inches out of his chair.
"You can't be that surprised to see me, Mr. Speaker," said Chris Bryant, popping his blond head round the door. "You did request we adjourn our discussion to a different forum."
John waved him in, and Chris obeyed, closing the door behind him.
"Only because- as you can surely appreciate- I cannot engage in a debate with any Member, however so much I may value his opinion, about my rulings on the floor of the House."
"I apologized when I raised the point of order, and if you like I'll apologize again now. I certainly don't mean to challenge your authority, but you don't have any authority if the Government can freely ignore your rulings!"
John gave him an arch look. "You didn't apologize. You said you hated to do it and then without a moment's hesitation you plowed ahead and did it anyway, which rather brings to mind the Government's policy on preemptive briefings."
Chris looked slightly abashed. "Well, I am sorry."
Chris's remorseful expression was difficult to resist, if only because it got so little exposure that John had never had the chance to build up an immunity. He sighed and relented, rising from his chair and beckoning the Welsh MP closer.
"I know you speak from concern, not disrespect. And I am grateful that I, and the House, have such a stalwart defender," he said, running his fingers down the magenta brocade of Chris's tie and feeling beneath it the warm solidity of his chest.
"But I can't defend you," Chris said, still looking anxious. "Not unless you help me."
"As I explained to you this afternoon, the Government tabled a written ministerial statement this morning. They were technically in compliance with established procedure."
"'Technically'! You're letting them wriggle out of their duties to the House on a technicality!"
"We had a comprehensive, if not entirely constructive, debate on Andrew's statement. They have not wriggled out of anything."
"After the press conference! John, this shouldn't be happening!"
"No, it shouldn't. But that's a different question to whether it's in violation of the rules. Why do we have rules against preemptive briefing in the first place?"
Chris studied him with a furrowed brow, not quite following. "So that the policy of the Government can be subjected to proper scrutiny."
"Precisely. And today the Government submitted a written statement before briefing the press in compliance with parliamentary procedure, Andrew's statement was thoroughly debated, and every backbencher- and frontbencher," he added pointedly, poking Chris in the stomach, "who wished to question him was heard. You've fallen into the politician's fallacy, Chris- we must do something, therefore we must do something about this."
"I'm fairly certain that's the Tory version of the politician's fallacy, not the original."
Now that John thought about it, he might have scrambled the wording a bit. No matter. "My point is, this is not the hill we want to die on."
Chris grinned, despite the lingering anxiety in his eyes.
"Have I mentioned how dashing you are when you use martial metaphors?" he said, tipping John's chin up into a hungry kiss, which John returned with enthusiasm. By the time they were done, they were both panting and Chris looked a good deal more cheerful.
"Well, perhaps a little death," John said, and went to lock the door.