Andy McSmith's Diary: You can't say John Bercow is sexist - he's rude to everyone


Click to follow
Indy Politics

John Bercow, the Speaker, risked setting off a row about sexism when he made a sarcastic comment at the expense of employment minister Esther McVey who had just given a 95-word answer to a question from an MP. “I am reminded of the feeling when one thinks the washing machine will stop – but it doesn’t,” the Speaker remarked.

In the short term, the sarcasm worked. Her answer to the next question was just 14 words long. But Tory MP Angie Bray thought Bercow had been “unnecessarily rude”, and Labour MP Stephen Pound gently suggested that “a washing machine metaphor for a woman minister is seldom a good idea”.

But it is not true to say that Bercow is particularly rude to women ministers: all ministers – especially Tories – get curt treatment from him.

Coincidence or conspiracy?

Disaster has struck Ed Miliband’s private office. Three members of his staff – his head of events, chief feature writer and trade union liaison officer – have been summoned for jury service in the last week of April, when the general election campaign will be in full flow. The Labour leader has a total staff of 18. None had been called up for jury service before this year.

Is this coincidence, or conspiracy? Do we detect the hand of Justice Secretary Chris Grayling? No, even the paranoid end of the Miliband operation concedes that Grayling is not that clever. “I’m not alleging conspiracy,” said Miliband’s spokesman. “I think it’s almost impossible for any minister, no matter how malignant, to fix it, but it’s a pain in the arse.”

Smoke alarm action at last

It is a week since I reported that the Government had scandalously failed to introduce a law preventing landlords from putting their tenants at risk by failing to install smoke alarms, which cost very little.

The Labour MP Nick Raynsford raised this issue in the Commons last May, and for 10 months nothing happened. Now, suddenly, it has: the Government has announced that it will legislate. Raynsford points out that if they had been quicker about it, 20 people who were burned to death might now be alive.

Lord of the marginals

Lord Oakeshott, a wealthy former Lib Dem peer who used to be best mates with Business Secretary Vince Cable, has been canvassing for Labour in one of the most marginal seats in the country. He is pictured on the Your Thurrock website, sporting a red rosette, out on the streets with the Labour candidate, Polly Billington, in a seat currently held by the Tory Jackie Doyle-Price, with a majority of just 92.

Oakeshott quit the Lib Dems after he was exposed as the money man behind opinion polls which showed that the Lib Dems were in danger of losing a big chunk of their parliamentary seats, including Nick Clegg’s. His motive, apparently, was to force a change of leader.

In January, he announced he was donating £300,000 to the Labour Party, spread around 30 marginals, of which Thurrock is one.

Blessed is the long-term plan

David Cameron and his ministers keep intoning the phrase “long-term economic plan”, hoping it will catch on. And it has, in North East Bedfordshire, if we are to believe the local Tory MP, Alistair Burt, who told the Commons today: “In my rural constituency, businesses regard the words ‘long-term economic plan’ with the same degree of comfort and familiarity as evensong in an Anglican church.”

Well, glory, glory, hallelujah to the long-term economic plan.

 Faith and politics

Owen Jones, a political commentator formerly of this parish – who is not quite as young as he looks – is doing a couple of gigs with the singer Paloma Faith. They will be talking politics. To me, Jones looks how Damon Albarn of Blur did in the 1990s, but that is not how he sees himself.

Explaining how he hopes to engage Paloma’s fans, he told Time Out that he will be “upbeat” because what he does not want is them thinking: “Oh blimey – some preachy prepubescent Macaulay Culkin lookalike is ranting at me about politics.”