If ever you needed evidence that politics at the moment is a bit, well, weird, John Bercow has just apologised in the House of Commons for comparing Esther McVey to a washing machine. At Work and Pensions Questions in the Commons on Monday, the Speaker cut the minister off during an answer by saying ‘I am reminded of the feeling when one thinks the washing machine will stop—but it does not!’ Today, in response to a point of order from Tory Heather Wheeler, Bercow said:
‘I hope I ordinarily treat members with great courtesy, it was an off-the-cuff remark, it may have been a foolish one, and I apologise for it.’
A few minutes later, Bercow told Chris Bryant (who was in the middle of a series of rather rude heckles himself) that ‘I know you’re an exceptionally clever man and no-one is more aware of your cleverness than you!’ Plus ça change, eh?
The funny thing about Bercow is hat he endlessly lectures MPs on good behaviour and courtesy, and pontificates about bullying in the Commons, yet often he sneers and mocks MPs himself, and even encourages jeering. It was his manner of introducing Julian Huppert with ‘time for a dose from the good doctor!’ that encouraged MPs to start heckling the Lib Dem every time he stood up in the Chamber. Perhaps he needs a dose of his own advice, if he is really to encourage a more civil atmosphere in the House of Commons.