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John Bercow should have kept his trap shut about Donald Trump

7 February 2017

7:23 AM

7 February 2017

7:23 AM

John Bercow is a little chap, and no harm in that, but does he really need to grandstand about his inviolable liberalism? Do we really need to know that ‘opposition to racism and sexism’ were ‘hugely important considerations’ in making him raise an issue which should have been left well alone, viz, the theoretical possibility that President Trump would address parliament in Westminster Hall? It wasn’t an issue, not really, until the Speaker sounded off about his opposition to it. We all know that he’s terrifically sound on all this stuff; we knew without him opening his trap what he thought about the Trump travel ban; he didn’t really need to say that:

‘Before the imposition of the migrant ban, I would myself have been strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall. After the imposition of the migrant ban I am even more strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall.’

Yes, yes, we got it, and he’s got it off his chest. Better out than in, eh?

But at what cost? Before Mr Bercow relieved himself of his feelings about not letting Trump in Westminster Hall, the PM could have got away with the state visit, making it as low-viz as is commensurate with the nature of the thing, perhaps a speech at Lancaster House or somewhere. By making an issue of what the PM had never even mentioned, the Westminster Hall bit, he’s now turned a non-issue into a big deal and every other MP now feels obliged to take a stand on it. Admittedly, the Evening Standard started this hare running when the paper’s parliamentary people suggested that president Obama’s precedent made it difficult to avoid offering the same deal to his successor, but, you know, that’s the job of journalists. The job of the Speaker is to keep his trap shut except in relation to the interests of MPs and of the Commons; it’s his job to speak for them, not for himself. It’s not every day you have to agree with Nigel Farage but on this he has a point. John Bercow has diminished his office.


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