John Bercow risked infuriating loyal Conservative MPs by suggesting that criticism of the way he handles House of Commons business comes from MPs who are “embittered” and “resentful” because their own political careers have not worked out as they had hoped.
In an outspoken interview, the Speaker also lashed out at journalists who have attacked or ridiculed his Labour-voting wife, Sally, accusing them of writing “sub standard, low music hall drivel.”
Mr Bercow’s three years as Speaker has made him lasting enemies among government supporters angered by the way he has striven to make ministers accountable to Parliament, for instance by compelling David Cameron to come to the Commons in April to answer questions about his Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the Murdoch media empire. Right wing newspapers have also highlighted his wife’s foibles, such as posing for a photographer wrapped only in a sheet.
Speaking to the BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme, Mr Bercow admitted that some of those who do not like him complain that he is “puffed up with his own importance” and that old allies on the Tory ‘hard right’ are disappointed that he no longer hold the views he had in Margaret thatcher’s time.
But he added: “Sometimes people who haven't perhaps achieved what they wanted to achieve in their political career can display some sign of resentment,” he said
“They have either vocalised their opinion in public or have constantly briefed against me behind the scenes. I have of course an idea about who some of these people are.
“It is a sadness for them that they are so embittered and resentful, that they are constantly seeking to undermine and brief against me and so on.”
He also claimed that he was “not angry but exasperated” by media sniping at his wife, Sally, whom he regards as an “asset.”
“These people are no-hopers, these totally low-grade sub standard down market low music hall drivel and the sort of people who are responsible for it probably wouldn't dare to debate the issue in any very public way,” he said.
Though first elected to Parliament as a Thatcherite Tory in 1997, Mr Bercow has since been on a political odyssey which has made the targets of complaints that he is anti-government and of rumours of Tory plots to sack him.
He angered Tories by allowing the Labour MP Chris Bryant to call Jeremy Hunt a “liar” without being ruled out of order, and had a public row with the government chief whip, Patrick McLouglin, who appeared to be on the point of storming out of the Chamber in protest at a ruling that appeared to favour Labour. In another famous incident, the Health Minister, Simon Burns, called the Speaker a “stupid, sanctimonious dwarf.”