Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Speaker Issue only Half Resolved after Vote

So I didn't choose the winner; nothing new in that. But listening to the likes of Nadine Dorries, Tory MP, and Nick Robinson this morning, it is obvious the election has only gone part of the way to solving the Speaker problem. I knew that Bercow was not liked in his own party but Robinson used the words 'heartily loathed', which suggests a more visceral disregard. Dorries said that only three Conservative MPs voted for Bercow; they mostly sat glum-faced after the result was announced; Cameron's enconium was a damning with very faint praise, as was Alan Duncan's on Today this morning.

Rumours abound that a group of Tories are planning to remove him once they are in office after next May. It would be a pity if this plan materialised but I doubt if it will. After a few months such ideas will seem absurdly petty and if and when they win, removing Bercow will appear the least of Tory priorities. But emotions are running high because, as Dorries suggested, the Conservatives feel Labour imposed the hated Bercow on them as a last act of spite before they lose the next election.

Why do they hate him so? Firstly because thery think he has curried favour with New Labour, moving swiftly from far right to the cusp of defection, probably encouraged by his Labour activist wife; illwishers suggest he 'discovered sex and the Labour party at the same time'. 'Turncoats' are pretty always close to the bottom of popularity polls in most organisations and Bercow was seen as someone virtually in Labour's ranks already. Secondly he is seen as extraordinarily bumptious and arrogant: not pretty character traits and ones which will prove major handicaps if the perception persists in office.

Thirdly, he is known for disrespecting colleagues, for example, correcting their grammar under his breath; now that would irritate even the most equable of colleagues. I just wonder though, if there is not a fourth reason. I recall a very senior adviser to a former Tory PM telling me he was sure Leon Brittan had his career derailed partly because of residual anti-semitism in the senior ranks of the Conservative Party. Bercow, as we know, is the son of a humble Jewish taxi-driver.

But all this can disappear. All Bercow needs to do is to make a big success of his new job and this gossip will become the merest historical froth. He will have to demonstrate he is totally committed to his stated rerform agenda and deploy industrial quantities more of the charm which his hustings speech and acceptance remarks suggests he has.

I think Bercow has the potential to be very good. Intelligent, articulate (how refreshing!) and a definite parliament man. In his early days he was one of the Tory terriers who would be examining and holding the government to account over virtually every clause of every Bill. Definitely good omens there.

The Tory reaction is exraordinary, and Nadine Dorries was frankly ridiculous on 'Today' this morning. I have come across Bercow only occasionally since FCS days (once as part of Ken Clarke's leadership campaign!), and found him to be pleasant, polite and far more interesting than many of his colleagues. Sadly, I think you may have a point with your penultimate paragraph - the Waspish Old Etonians now running the party certainly wouldn't care for Bercow. As an ordinary punter I, on the other hand, am encouraged by a genuinely good choice.
"I recall a very senior adviser to a former Tory PM telling me he was sure Leon Brittan had his career derailed partly because of residual anti-semitism in the senior ranks of the Conservative Party"

It's a little difficult to see the parallel Skipper. Quite apart from anything else, the Tories have since had a Jewish leader (Michael Howard) elected by unanimous acclaim. That alone would suggest that if anti-Semitism is latent, it is now fairly well pushed aside and probably confined to a fairly small segment.

I think the real reason they are sore is because they wanted a pliant speaker for when they win the next election - which after ten years of Martin is the very last thing the country needed!
The Jewish argument is beneath contempt. When the party are in Government, I trust they will prove their pro-Israel credentials at every opportunity.

Britton was loathed because his loyalty to Europe surpassed his loyalty to his country. Like a modern day Thomas More, but alas flameproof. Bercow is despised for the same reasons as we hate Woodward and Quentin Davies. He is a defection waiting to happen.

This petty action will be reversed as soon as we can vote out these soon to be unemployed muppets.
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