Some of Britain’s top Berc-ologists met recently to discuss a letter sent by John Bercow to MPs nearly a decade ago. He was advertising his suitability as a successor to Speaker Martin and he promised to serve ‘no more than nine years in total,’ if he were to win the election on June 22 2009. ‘Any Speaker should be able to make a mark in that time,’ he added, setting himself an idiosyncratic goal. To make a mark. As if parliament were a concrete bridge and the Speaker were a hoodie with a spray-can.
Today, nine years and a bit later, is the first PMQs since Bercow outstayed his own welcome. His presence is therefore an affront to the house. He has defied the Chair. He has ignored the Speaker’s ruling. He has trashed not only the authority of the Commons but his own integrity as well. His word is worthless, his vows are false. But is he repentant? Hardly. He was at his orotund and hectoring worst today, braying like a donkey at MPs and treating them to red-faced blasts of faux-Dickensian banter. ‘Mr Snell!’ he honked at the member for Stoke. ‘Calm yourself. Acquire the quality of an aspiring statesperson. Calm!’
To the dismay of many, he inadvertently revealed his retirement plans while calling for silence.
‘There is unlimited time as far as I’m concerned. The question will be heard and the – order! – the answers will be heard. And nothing and no one will stop that happening, and it’s as simple and unmistakeable and clear as that.’
And so the volcanic pygmy rumbles on.
Brexit dominated today’s exchanges. MPs with big factories in their constituencies complained that May hadn’t revealed her final offer in the negotiations. But to reveal that secret is to lose the game. So she waffled away, saying much, revealing nothing. MP after MP harangued her on behalf of Honda, BMW, Airbus and Rolls-Royce.
‘Rolls-Royce is an important brand for our country,’ she said, nimbly avoiding the fact that Rolls-Royce has been a German enterprise for some time, like the royal family.
These noisy demands came from the largest, oldest and fattest firms, whose inflated costs and lethargic business practices are protected by the EU. And no wonder. The EU is just like them: a death-bed multinational gobbling up cash and delivering a ropy service.
Corbyn read out a letter from a citizen-worker whom he called ‘Andrew from Honda in Swindon.’ When Corbyn takes over everyone will be identified in this chillingly efficient style to reflect our roles as widgets in the machine: our first name, our company title, our factory location. But ‘Andrew’ was far from a widget. ‘Andrew’ overflowed with self-importance. ‘I have seen nothing that gives me confidence,’ he wrote irascibly, ‘that the government is going to reach a trade agreement allowing the seamless flow of goods.’ He was like a querulous monarch refusing to grant royal assent to a distasteful new bill.
The voice of Ceridigion was represented by Plaid Cymru’s Ben Lake who claimed that his constituency is destitute. He should go there one of these days. Ceredigion is booming. Pitching for a grant he expressed his fear that he might be ignored. ‘Is mid-Wales not worth investing in?’ he sobbed. May divined correctly that the MP was in greater need than the constituency. She soothed him with a spending plan, ‘and we’ll be involving the honourable gentleman in that’. In other words, ‘Nurse will see you shortly.’