Bercow hits out at 'snobs and delinquents'

The Speaker of the House of Commons rounds on his 'wrong and not terribly happy' critics within his own party
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He is the focus of anger among Conservative MPs, and has even been likened by the Prime Minister to one of the Seven Dwarfs. But John Bercow, the Speaker of the Commons, has responded to his critics in Parliament and the media by labelling them "snobs, bigots and juvenile delinquents".

In a Radio 4 documentary to be broadcast today, the Speaker also described those who attack his outspoken wife, Sally, as "not terribly happy people".

Mr Bercow rejected claims that he is biased against Tory MPs, some of whom attempted to oust him from the Speaker's chair two years ago. But his strongly worded criticism of MPs and journalists is unlikely to win him more support.

In the programme, The Speaker: Behind the Scenes, Mr Bercow condemns those MPs "in the undergrowth, who are not really interested in playing a constructive part" at Westminster: "It's a kind of juvenile delinquency, but when it manifests itself in people in their 40s, 50s and even 60s it's a bit sad. There are some people out there who have got an agenda and they're just hostile."

Referring to some parliamentary sketchwriters and other journalists who have criticised him, Mr Bercow says: "Those who do it on a ritualistic basis I tend to think are very low grade; they are operating at the bottom end of the media market. They are not into serious journalism; they're in the light entertainment business. They consist by and large of what I call the snobs and the bigots faction."

Mr Bercow has become a hate figure for some Conservatives for making the transition from the right wing of the party to the centre and for having a Labour-supporting wife, who is an enthusiastic tweeter and former Celebrity Big Brother contestant. Last week Mrs Bercow ran into fresh trouble for tweeting that members of the public gathered for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee were "mindless, flag-waving loons".

In the documentary, recorded before the Jubilee, the Speaker says of his wife's critics: "They think that a wife should just sort of stay in the background, walk a few paces behind her husband, slice mushrooms and never express an opinion. Those people are entitled to their views; in my view they suffer from the quite considerable disadvantage of being wrong, and I think that with at least some of them they are not terribly happy people."

In March, Mr Cameron was clearly irritated by a speech Mr Bercow gave to mark the Diamond Jubilee, in which he praised the "kaleidoscope Queen of a kaleidoscope country" – an apparent reference to the Kaleidoscope Trust, a gay rights charity of which he is president.

In today's programme, Mr Bercow issues a veiled dig at the Prime Minister. Referring to the time when Mr Cameron described Ed Balls in the Commons chamber as a "muttering idiot", he says: "There was something of an eruption towards the end [of his speech] and very often it's just a word here or there that can provoke strong feeling on either side. The Prime Minister made reference to members on the Opposition front bench, and the word 'idiot' that he used was unparliamentary, so I asked him to withdraw it. But the tribalism of Prime Minister's Questions and of the party system came out at that point, so big noise on both sides. And there are certain members who are almost without fail excitable and they sometimes have to be gently exhorted to calm down."

One of Mr Bercow's chief journalistic critics, Quentin Letts, the parliamentary sketchwriter of the Daily Mail, tells the programme: "His personality is that he's an ostentatious chameleon, he's confected, he's artificial, he's a tilter in the wind."

But the Speaker appears to have won over one of his former opponents on the Tory benches, Nadine Dorries. Two years ago she attempted to force a vote to remove him from his position. Mrs Dorries now says that Mr Bercow has begun to win the respect of all sides of the House: "There is definitely a feeling of support building for him".

'The Speaker' is broadcast on Radio 4 at 1.30pm today