John Bercow’s interview with the World at One was guaranteed to raise a few hackles across Westminster, and he certainly delivered on that by attacking ‘totally low-grade, substandard’ ‘no-hopers’ in the media. But well as revealing that he told his mother to stop reading the Daily Mail after reading something unpleasant about him in the newspaper, the Speaker also made some other interesting comments about his own role.
He defended his decision to allow Chris Bryant to brand Jeremy Hunt a ‘liar’ during an Opposition Day debate on whether the Culture Secretary’s dealings with News Corp should be investigated, saying ‘it was uncomfortable and unpopular, but correct’ because the clerk had advised him that the word ‘liar’ was permissible within the context of the motion that was being debated. He also dismissed suggestions that the Prime Minister was exasperated by his enthusiasm for granting urgent questions and scolding backbenchers:
In any event, much as I have the highest respect for the Prime Minister, both as a man of great ability and for the office he holds, I’m sure your listeners will understand when I say that the team captain cannot also be the referee. The Prime Minister’s job is to captain his team, his party, and his government. My job is to serve as speaker of the House of Commons. Sometimes there can be a difference of opinion on procedural matters, and where it’s my responsibility to make a decision, make a decision I must.
I’ve blogged before about the benefits of Bercow as Speaker, and today he underlined his own approach to regulating the House: ‘helping parliament get off its knees and recognise that it isn’t just there in any sense as a rubber-stamping operation for the government of the day, and as necessary and appropriate, to contradict and expose the government of the day’. The Speaker does make life more uncomfortable for government ministers, and that is a good thing for parliament.
On the flip side, though, research by Conservative MP Rob Wilson in January found that 62 per cent of his interruptions were against Tory MPs when only 47 per cent of MPs are Conservative. The Speaker also takes quite visible delight in giving certain Conservative MPs and ministers a really stern ticking off in the manner of an overbearing primary school teacher. He will find, though, that the political press isn’t called to order quite so easily.Tags: Speaker, UK politics