Speaker to trade places with Kabul counterpart

John Bercow is used to facing the flak as one of the most controversial speakers of the House of Commons in recent times. But he is about to embark on a journey which may give him an entirely new perspective on what that means.

The MP is to trade places with his opposite number in the Afghan parliament, Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, in an effort to bond the democratic institutions of the two countries.

Afghanistan will be a daunting baptism of fire for Mr Bercow after Westminster village. He will face an atmosphere of violence, intimidation and fear – and that is just in the parliamentary chamber in Kabul. Outside, there is the small matter of the raging insurgency which has led to a number of attacks on the Afghan capital – the latest the storming of the five-star Intercontinental Hotel.

Conservative MPs may wish the move east by the Speaker was permanent. David Cameron, who appears to have a strong dislike of Mr Bercow, could well be tempted to announce that as Britain disengages from Afghanistan at least one high profile UK official should stay on to help with nation-building. Asked if Mr Bercow had actually been asked to participate in the project, a Downing Street spokesman said: "I am sure he is fully supportive of our efforts."

It is unclear whether Mr Bercow's redoubtable wife, Sally, will accompany him to Afghanistan. The visit would provide a welcome and fitting distraction from recent unpleasantness back home, when she was threatened with legal action by Carpetright after suggesting the company was going under. If Mrs Bercow decides to boycott Carpetright in retaliation, there are few better places than Kabul for alternative supplies.

Mrs Speaker will, however, have to dress much more modestly than she did in her now infamous photoshoot in the Evening Standard, when she was snapped wearing only a bedsheet. She may, in fact, consider wearing a burka while shopping for rugs. Attacks on foreigners, and especially the threat of kidnapping, have noticeably increased, and Sally will undoubtedly be noticed.

Mrs Bercow has declared she finds the Commons "incredibly sexy". It will probably be unwise to use such terms in Kabul. If she does accompany her husband to the Afghan parliament, she will find a few differences.

The constitution guarantees that 25 per cent of all seats are reserved for women, but doing the job can be hazardous for female MPs. Zarghuna Kakar, who represented one of the constituencies in Kandahar, had to flee to Kabul after an Islamist ambush in which her husband was killed. Conservative mullahs had warned her for being involved in "man's work" and ordered her to stay at home.

Mr Bercow, who has made a point in the Commons of asking MPs to behave with decorum, will have a harder ride in Kabul. Mr Ibrahimi has suspended MPs for their transgressions, but at a cost of brutal threats. He has brushed this aside, pointing out that his own tribe is formidable and people would think twice before starting a blood feud. The Bercow clan may not have the same type of cachet in downtown Kabul.

Some Afghans, at least, gave the scheme the benefit of the doubt. Fayuz Nasruddin, a political analyst in Kabul, said: "It is an interesting proposition, and maybe we can learn from each other."

From Westminster to Kabul

Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi

The speaker of Kabul's House of the People has two wives, six sons and eight daughters and is the brother of a Jihadi commander. A graduate of Kabul University, the 51-year-old member of Afghanistan's minority Uzbek ethnic group only this week had to keep control of what can become a rowdy house when a brawl broke out as two female MPs exchanged blows after a discussion about Pakistani rocket attacks.



John Bercow

Vertically challenged cabbie's son Bercow is the former campaigner for the "assisted repatriation" of immigrants and, as a young Tory, was branded too right-wing by Norman Tebbit, before drifting to the left of the Tory left. Controlling the house is a tall order when your limelight-loving wife is embarrassing her party (Labour) and you aren't hugely popular in yours (Conservatives).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore