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John Bercow reinvents being Speaker of the House of Commons

9 August 2013

If only he’d read the job description a little bit more closely, we might have avoided all these rows. Unfortunately for John Bercow, the man who loves the sound of his own voice more than anything else, the role of Speaker really doesn’t do what it says on the tin. Traditionally, the Speaker has taken a definite back seat, bellowing the odd ‘order, order’ in the Commons but otherwise maintaining a rather reticent and impartial position.

Judging by Bercow’s behaviour over the past few months, it would seem that he hasn’t got the memo. This summer alone, he’s travelled to Romania, Burma and New Zealand, observing wryly at his final destination that, ‘There must be some ministers in my country who would find the prospect of my being relocated the better part of 12,000 miles away rather enticing.’

Nor is Bercow standing in for the Royal Family while they coo over their new baby – he doesn’t just turn up and shake hands. Instead, he’s been using the trips to speak out and make political points, a tactic that’s been received by some Tory MPs with as much warmth as Lord McAlpine turning on his computer to find a message on Twitter from Sally Bercow.

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First up, in Bucharest, Bercow used his supposedly neutral position to gain a policy platform for his views on border control. The man who in his youth could be found calling for the repatriation of immigrants and breaking bread with Gregory Lauder-Frost (now vice-president of the Traditional Britain group that’s plunged Jacob Rees-Mogg into hot water in recent days), told the audience that Eastern European immigrants showed more ‘aptitude and commitment’ than some British workers. I wonder, who could this grandson of Romanian immigrants possibly have had in mind?

His next stop in Yangon saw a return to Burma, a country in which he’s long held a passionate interest. Last time he visited, he was smuggled over the border, but, on this occasion, in the wake of the country’s tentative moves towards democracy, he was able to come and go through the usual diplomatic channels. While he was hardly likely to get much grief for meeting the leader of Burma’s democratic movement, Aung San Suu Kyi, it was still interesting that the Speaker was acting more like a jet-setting statesman than an arbiter of obscure points of parliamentary procedure.

Now most recently, the trip to New Zealand has reopened old wounds with his former Conservative Party colleagues. By calling for less government control over the parliamentary timetable, Bercow has once again taken up the mantle of backbenchers’ rights, a cause which has won over a lot of his critics in the Commons. However, it’s unlikely to do anything to heal his rift with David Cameron, which started when Bercow criticised him for representing ‘Eton, hunting, shooting and lunch at White’s’ – a description which so angered the Prime Minister that friends told me he ‘spits blood’ when he says Bercow’s name.

Speaking has always been in Bercow’s DNA. As a young Tory activist, he was never happier than when taking on a hostile crowd – even though his nerves occasionally got the better of him, causing him to have to pop round the back for a quick vomit before taking the stage. As Speaker he is isolated from a lot of the political rough and tumble that he loves – there is no place for him at the party conferences or on Question Time. Bercow’s response to this political solitude shows just how bullish he is. He could have let the role define him, but, as we await the statesman’s long flight home from the other side of the world, it is clear that he intends to shape it in his own image.

Bobby Friedman is the author of Bercow, Mr Speaker: Rowdy Living in the Tory Party.

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Show comments
  • thanksdellingpole

    Vote UKIP to get rid of rubbish like this.

    Vote BNP to repatriate immigrants.

  • Robert Taggart

    Question. General Election 2015 – will this poison dwarf stand again in Buckingham ?
    Should he have the temerity to do so – will Cameo have the cojones to allow the local Tory Party to put up their own candidate ?
    Fingers crossed !

  • 2trueblue

    Bercow will go down in history, but for noe of the right reasons. Why the Tories did not do something about him earlier I fail to fathom.

  • slyblade

    i have just read he will be standing down after the next election (possibly letting Boris in) he will go the lords. Will we ever be rid of this tedious odious little creep.

  • Daedalus

    Yeah Bercow seems to stand up for the back bencher’s. Doesn’t stop him being a complete and utter tw-t.


  • stickytape

    I don’t like him personally, but if he’s called for less Government interference in the Parliamentary timetable, then he surely can’t be that bad.
    Government has too much power as it is, Parliament is there to hold the Government to account, any reduction in Government influence, is, imho, a good thing.

  • Peter Stroud

    Frankly he is not a very good Mr Speaker, is he? We thought The last one was a bit biased, but Bercow is worse than the BBC for pandering to the left. Rather a nasty little cove, I suggest. Still, with that wife….say no more.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    He’s the perfect symbol of Labour’s spite and it’s a shame the Tories haven’t got the nuts to keep reminding the country of the fact. You cannot take Parliament seriously if the put something like that in charge of their business. His ‘management’ of his expenses in the run up to his election campaign puts him firmly in the oily snake category.

    What a shame Sir George Young was beaten by the little simian.

  • Jimmy R

    Just as a matter of interest has any previous Speaker spent so much time and expense on swanning all over the world under the falsehood that they are on Parliamentary business? Even Gorbals Mick, bad as he was, wasn’t as crass as to impose himself on the rest of the world.

    • Fergus Pickering

      The rest of the world wouldn’t have understood a word he said.

  • Nick

    Another overpaid irrelevant insect.

  • MikeF

    Trying not to be personal the only thing you can say about Bercow is that is he is a one-man microcosm of everything that has gone wrong in public life in this country – specifically the replacement of the concept of impartial public service by sectarian (self-)interest.

  • HookesLaw

    Bercow’s wife fancies him as a defacto head of state and herself as first lady.

    He should be impeached.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Are Bercow and his awful wife the most repulsive people in the whole of the Freakshow? Bercow is probably the best reason there is for a revolution to over turn Parliament. Getting rid of him would make it worth it whatever the other consequences!

    • Nick

      Perfectly said.

    • Jimmy R

      Oh, I think South Georgia would be far better. Both the arrogant, opinionated little trolls will be able to keep themselves warm with all the hot air they spout.

      • slyblade

        i knew there was a reason for global warming :-)

    • country_exile

      When I compare him to the great speakers of the past 30 years – George Thomas, Bernard Wetherill or Betty Boothroyd it makes you want to weep. All of them were apolitical and upheld the majesty of the office. Bercow is no more than a jumped up little upstart.

    • slyblade

      Well said Sir.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Ghastly fellow.

  • Ben Kelly

    What an annoying, self-important twerp his is. UGH.

  • Fergus Pickering

    The man’s a see-you-in-tea. Can I get away with that?

    • Fergus Pickering

      It appears I can. Oh joy!

      • Daniel Maris

        See you next Tuesday, Canute, then.

    • Greenslime

      The moderator must have been asleep at his/her post, or on holiday with the rest of the main writing staff. Normally much more innocuous posts are removed without explanation. That is what comes of refusing to comply with the government’s spanking new regulatory system with lots of high minded kerrap spoken but then revving up the lawyers to make sure that you don’t get one of those nasty big fines. Hypoocrites!

      • Fergus Pickering

        I think the moderator is a computer reacting to certain words..

        • Greenslime

          You are probably right. So they should call it ‘automated censorship’, because, as it stands, it is not moderation. The fact is that once removed “for moderation”, it NEVER reappears. I have been removed twice and can assure you that on both occasions there was nothing obscene, rude or legally contentious about my contents. If moderation were truly taking place, those comments should have reappeared – and they did not.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Ironically a lot of the words censored in the comments regularly appear in the magazine’s articles. It says a lot about where we are headed.

            • Fergus Pickering

              We should make a list of the words: s*x, c*nt, That’s a start

  • Greenslime

    The problem is that to truly describe this slimey little creature is impossible here as it would be moderated out by the ever-ready Spectator censors before you could say, “odious little gobsh…..”

  • Noa

    He’s of Roumanian origin?
    Does that explain Sally’s caravan sallies with scallies?

  • ButcombeMan

    Odious, just odious.

    Are we paying for his self important jollies?

    Maybe he has an excuse, keeping away from Sally.

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