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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: The Speaker gives David Cameron his very own time trial


Any pretence that relations between the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House of Commons are founded on mutual respect fell away long ago. They can’t stand each other.

Their mutual antagonism was on parade today at Prime Minister’s Questions, a ritual that is supposed to run from midday until 12.30pm, but which the Speaker always prolongs, to make up for time lost through barracking and general rowdiness. That is one of many things about John Bercow that niggles David Cameron.

As PMQs approached their delayed end, there was a sudden eruption of cheering and cries of “More!” when Bercow allowed Simon Burns, a Tory former health minister, to ask the next question. This was not because Simon Burns is popular: it was in memory of the time he lost his temper and called the Speaker a “stupid, sanctimonious dwarf”.

Since that day, three years ago, he has – unsurprisingly – found it difficult to get called to speak when John Bercow is in the chair. Hence David Cameron’s barbed comment: “For you to be called at 12.33 pm on a Wednesday shows that if you stick at anything, you can win.”

Looking distinctly put out, Bercow retorted: “I have always practised that philosophy myself” – and he called three more MPs to ask questions, thereby forcing Cameron to stay at the Despatch Box even longer.

Votes good and true

“I suspect I’m the only politician in Westminster who is happy only getting 12 votes,” the Tory MP Nigel Evans told BBC2’s Daily Politics show, with reference to his recent court acquittal.

“Unless you’re the Lib Dems,” host Andrew Neil replied.

Helmer badgering on

No doubt we will be hearing more of the sayings of Roger Helmer MEP, the Ukip candidate in the Newark by-election, as that vote approaches. So far, his views on gays and on rape have drawn the most attention, but the pearls of wisdom that he contributed to the debate on the culling of badgers should not be forgotten. They include “badgers are aggressive, verminous and vicious”, and this prize tweet: “Another good reason for a badger cull – it would bring down the exorbitant price of shaving brushes.”

Job done

And on the subject of Ukip, there was something inevitable about the tale turned up by the Huffington Post website. Ukip evidently could not find volunteers to distribute its leaflets warning the good people of Croydon that EU migrants are coming to take away their jobs. So it paid to have the job done. The three men hired to do the work were – of course – from Eastern Europe.

Rubbish idea

It is a rule to which there are almost no exceptions: that when somebody uses a Nazi analogy in a political argument, they are talking rubbish.

In Birmingham, as in other parts of the country, the council’s policy is that the free litter collection does not apply to garden waste, there being no good reason why people who have not got gardens should subsidise those who have. In Birmingham, some residents who have put garden waste out for the bin men to collect have found it left behind, with a notice telling them that if they want it taken away, they have to pay.

John Lines, a Tory councillor and former lord mayor, is enraged. “It’s like the Gestapo going through our rubbish,” he tells the Birmingham Mail. Apparently, he did not know that the same policy was in force when he and his fellow Tories ran the council.