John Bercow was in a funny mood as he presided over the Commons today. Only minutes into the session, he became impatient as the barrister-turned-Tory MP, Robert Neill, asked a question that ran to about 90 words. “If he was paid by the word when he was practising at the Bar, he must have become a very rich man indeed,” the Speaker said.
He also made a strange comment after the Justice minister, Jeremy Wright, answered a question from a fellow Tory, Philip Hollobone, quoting statistics about the number of foreign nationals in British jails, which Labour challenged but which Mr Wright insisted were correct. “That is obviously the Wright effect, or the Hollobone effect, or possibly a virtuous combination of the two. Who knows? I will leave the House to muse on the matter,” Bercow said.
Then he seemed to think the Tory Sir Edward Leigh had stood up, meaning he wanted to speak. Sir Edward claimed his rump had never risen from the green bench. The Speaker clearly did not believe him, saying: “I don’t want to dispute your word. Perhaps you were just having a therapeutic stretch.”
He was enervated, rather than foul-tempered, suggesting he has got over the shock of seeing the snatched photograph that filled the front page of today’s Sun newspaper, showing Sally Bercow kissing a muscular young man in a London club. On Twitter, she insisted that no matter how it looked, it was all innocent. “It looks bad but so isn’t! Hey ho. Gotta love meeja :-),” she tweeted.
Gove’s Aberdeen anguish
As Michael Gove dominates the news, someone at his old university, Oxford, has dug out an item of hot gossip published in a student newspaper 26 years ago, alongside a picture of a young, pixie-like Gove, alleging that he was one of three male students and two females who all crashed out overnight in the same double bed. “Gove claims he was only seeking comfort after being beaten up in Aberdeen on Boxing Day,” the writer added.
Let’s have Cash for a question
Sights you never expected to see: Bill Cash, that relentless opponent of the EU, who can bore for Britain on the subject, was spotted outside Parliament’s main gates, getting out of a car with the registration FR A1, which suggests he is on better terms with the French ambassador than might be supposed.
London hotels strike gold
One group which owes the rail union leader Bob Crow a vote of thanks is London’s hoteliers. The Hotels.com website is reporting a 33 per cent increase in searches on its mobile app as commuters work out how to cope during the Tube strike.
Age-old poser for Rees-Mogg
That middle-aged fogey, the Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, won the Wannabe Oldie of the Year title at the awards presented by The Oldie magazine but, as he explained, it was a misnomer. “It’s not so much that I want to be elderly, I was born elderly”, he said. “My father took one look at me when I appeared and thought it must be a reincarnation of his grumpy old man, who had returned, so I’m trying to keep up that image for as long as I possibly can.”
In reality, Mogg is nearly three years younger than David Cameron, who is too young to be Prime Minister, according to Sir John Major, who was there to collect the Oldie Campaigner of the Year award.
“Politicians used to be older,” he mused. “Gladstone was in his 80s when he was Prime Minister. These days, successive prime ministers are getting younger, and at the present rate of regression the next prime minister but four will actually be pre-puberty.”