Despite the circumstances of his election, Speaker Bercow is showing scant regard for the party who secured his election. First, he recommended that ministers who sat in the House of Lords, particularly the Lord Most High, should be cross-examined by MPs, and today he gave Battlin’ Bob a severe dressing down in the Commons.
The very damning Gray report was debated today, and Ainsworth can hardly have been anticipating this event with generous thoughts and easy gaiety. To avoid total disaster, the cunning Defence Secretary played the ‘George Carmen card’ – that is, release the evidence an hour before the debate so that none of the participants have the time to read it. But this Speaker stands firm against the executive’s skullduggery. Emulating a Victorian patriarch, Bercow took to his feet, looked down his nose and described former shop steward Ainsworth’s ruse as “rank discourtesy” – Bercow’s closer to Lord Derby than he is a Labour stooge. He said:
‘I must say to him (the Secretary of State) that publication a matter of an hour before the debate is regarded by Members as a discourtesy, and I confess that I myself also regard it as a discourtesy, and I hope that this will not happen again.’
The reign of Speaker Bercow is in its infancy, but other than yesterday’s pusillanimity over the Trafigura gagging order he has kept order and defended privilege far more effectively than his predecessor. Bercow was the wrong man for the job, but he should now be allowed to perform it.