I have no plans to work in Afghanistan, says John Bercow

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Indy Politics

At first sight, it was a good news story: John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, would swap places with his counterpart in Afghanistan as part of the drive to improve governance in that country. The idea was floated by Downing Street after David Cameron met Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, the Speaker in the Afghan Parliament, during his visit to Kabul this week. There was only one problem: no one had told Mr Bercow.

Yesterday his spokeswoman said: "The Speaker has not received an invitation to go to Afghanistan and has no plans to go to Afghanistan." His cool response prompted speculation at Westminster that Mr Cameron was mischievously taking his revenge on Mr Bercow for cutting him short during two recent sessions of Prime Minister's Questions.

The Speaker's interventions have angered Tory MPs. Their frustration at the performance of their former backbench colleague reached new heights when he granted Labour's request for yesterday's emergency Commons debate on phone hacking against the Government's wishes.

Mr Bercow, once a right-wing Tory, has travelled leftwards across the political spectrum. When he was elected Speaker in 2009, he won the post largely on the back of support from Labour MPs. Some Tory MPs hope to force Mr Bercow out by changing Commons rules so that he will face re-election after the next general election.

Yesterday, the Tory MP Rob Wilson accused Mr Bercow of being biased against Tories. "He constantly interrupts and chastises Conservative MPs, while giving generous leeway to Labour opponents," said Mr Wilson. Urging Mr Bercow to alter his approach, he warned: "This is not just vital in terms of his tenure in the Speaker's chair: it is a constitutional necessity."