The accuser: Monday clubber who joined Conservative mainstream

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Indy Politics

Although he has been an MP for only three years, John Bercow is no stranger to controversy. In 1981, at the tender age of 18, he became secretary to the ultra right-wing Monday Club, run by Harvey Proctor, who was then an MP. Two years later it called for voluntary repatriation of Pakistanis, the repeal of the Race Relations Act and the abolition of the Commission for Racial Equality.

Although he has been an MP for only three years, John Bercow is no stranger to controversy. In 1981, at the tender age of 18, he became secretary to the ultra right-wing Monday Club, run by Harvey Proctor, who was then an MP. Two years later it called for voluntary repatriation of Pakistanis, the repeal of the Race Relations Act and the abolition of the Commission for Racial Equality.

Although Mr Bercow resigned from the Monday Clubin 1984 because of the "unpalatable" views of its racist members, he attracted more unfavourable publicity in the mid-1980s as national chairman of the almost equally right-wing Federation of Conservative Students (FCS). The FCS became such an embarrassment that it was disbanded by Norman Tebbit, but Mr Bercow was allowed to stay on to run its more sanitised replacement, the Conservative Collegiate Forum.

By 1990 he was the youngest deputy leader of Lambeth's Conservative Group, and in May that year he organised support for the embattled Margaret Thatcher. Six months later, though, he had changed his views and gave his backing to John Major as party leader.

He then went on, scarcely less controversially, to be special adviser to Jonathan Aitken as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and later to Virginia Bottomley as Secretary of State for National Heritage.

After failing to win nomination for three safe seats, he appeared at his selection meeting in Buckingham by helicopter. Having won the contest, he told his friend Julian Lewis, now MP for New Forest East, that it was "the best £1,000 I've ever spent".

Although still on the right of his party on issues such asEurope, Mr Bercow is generally seen as a fairly mainstreamfigure these days. He has won respect for his frequent interventions in the chamber - though he was told off once by the Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, for boisterous behaviour - and has been recruited by Ann Widdecombe to her frontbench Home Affairs team.

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