Andy McSmith's Diary: After Esther McVey, it was Chris Bryant's turn to get a rough ride from Speaker John Bercow


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Indy Politics

John Bercow has apologised for the quip in which he likened the Employment minister, Esther McVey, to a washing machine. He was pulled up today by the Tory MP Heather Wheeler who suggested that it was not the sort of thing the Speaker should be saying to a female minister.

“I intended to cause no offence to her and hold her in the highest esteem,” he replied. “I hope I ordinarily treat MPs with great courtesy. It was an off-the-cuff remark, it may well have been a foolish one, and I apologise for it.”

It has been suggested that he was being sexist, but as I said yesterday, he would be just as likely to say something cutting to a man. He demonstrated as much seconds after delivering the apology, when he silenced the Labour MP Chris Bryant. “You are an exceptionally clever man,” he said. “No one is more aware of your cleverness than you.” I should add that no one who knows Mr Bryant is likely to disagree.

C’est la guerre

Reports that the French are saying “Non” to a £2 euro coin that would commemorate the Battle of Waterloo evoked a gleeful response from the Tory MP Michael Fabricant, via Twitter: “They say it’s degrading. Yeah, it is. We won, you losers!” Come on – it was 200 years ago. We have been allies in every war involving both France and the UK since then.

Stalwart voice silenced

Stephen Norris, who combined being an MP in the 1990s with a successful business career, was the best candidate the Tories had run in a London mayoral contest, until Boris Johnson came along, because he was a social liberal.

But there was solid opposition to his having any role in the Tory party, mainly from its women members of a certain age, because he was also – like the current mayor – a serial philanderer. Rosette Irwin, a stalwart of the Camden Conservative Association, was filmed emerging from party headquarters, and on being asked whether Norris should be allowed to stand, giving a resounding “Non”.

That voice is now silent. She died this week, aged 96. Her funeral is next Wednesday.

Value for money MPs

There is a new website called “Rate Your MP” which offers a crude guide to which MPs are the best or worst value of money. The calculation is done by totalling an MP’s salary and office costs, and dividing by the number of times that MP has voted in the Commons since the 2010 election, arriving at a “cost per vote” figure.

On this basis, the Speaker and his deputies and the Sinn Fein MPs are bumping along the bottom, because the Sinners never took their seats because they wouldn’t swear allegiance to the Queen, and the Speaker and Deputy Speakers never vote. Meanwhile it was with dread and trepidation that I looked up Philip Hollobone, the Tory maverick who keeps his office costs down to almost nothing and is assiduous in voting for every daft or far-right proposition that comes before Parliament. As I feared, they rate him as being the “best value for money” of them all.

Despicable situation

There was a sign of how tense the political leaders are getting as an election looms in the increasingly harsh language that David Cameron and Ed Miliband threw at each other at Prime Minister’s Questions. Miliband called the Prime Minister a bully, and David Cameron twice called Miliband “despicable”.

I have searched for any previous example in the current Parliament of one MP using that adjective to describe another. So far as I can discover, the nearest anyone came to it was during a debate about social care in 2012, when the right-wing Tory Philip Davies was annoyed with the Labour MP Diana Johnson and accused her of “trying to do something that might be described as despicable”.