More crying in the Commons. More applause. John Bercow didn’t try to hide his tears as it became apparent that the government had lost its vote that would have fatally undermined him. The motion to re-elect the Speaker by secret ballot after the general election failed by 202 ayes to 228 noes. It looks as though Charles Walker’s emotional speech shifted a few votes at the last minute, too.
The mistake here was not the idea of a secret ballot, which many would have supported for the reasons outlined by William Hague. It was the way the vote was sprung on the Commons at the last minute without any consultation even of key figures such as Walker and in a way that was designed to get as many Tory MPs through the lobbies and as few Labour MPs as possible.
But Bercow’s tears should not be ones of unfettered happiness and relief. Today’s debate has thrown into sharp relief just what a divisive speaker he has become, in spite of his good work in empowering backbenchers. The question of whether he has the authority to regulate the House from May onwards will arise very quickly. But today’s debate was not the forum for that question to be raised and has set back the cause of the Speaker’s opponents.