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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £38,000

£16000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Sales Advisor - OTE 18k-23k

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of Ford's leading Parts Who...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to learn ...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders