The trouble with Mr Speaker, even when he makes the right decision, is his motives. Fame is the spur and so is his love of hurting the Conservative party which nurtured him. However natural these feelings, they are completely wrong for the Speakership. The occupant of the chair is supposed to be a pillar of the constitution, not its talking gargoyle.
A sad feature of the Brexit story has been how so many people with important official roles have not seemed to understand or, in some cases, even to care, what those roles entail. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Governor of the Bank of England are supposed to assist the British economy, not invest in its collapse. Five cabinet ministers, all supposedly bound by collective responsibility, abstain despite a whip, thereby allowing a vote to prevent ‘no deal’ to pass. The Attorney General is supposed to speak soberly: this one is a music-hall act. The Archbishop of Canterbury says he wants to help us ‘disagree well’, but then alleges that a no-deal Brexit will make lorry queues extend from Dover to Leicester.
It is a struggle to think of anyone with an official position who has understood the limits of his role. This column’s candidate would be Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee. While frankly a Brexit supporter, he has done his best to maintain the interests of all his party’s backbenchers, speak irenically and find some way to square the government’s timidity with the need to implement the referendum result. His amendment was carried. Mrs May immediately said she would implement it in full and then, within a day, wriggled out.
This article is an extract from Charles Moore’s Spectator Notes, which will be in this week’s magazine.