Westminster's biggest hate figure?

John Bercow's loathing for Tory grandees is entirely mutual. Will his rage and resentment undo him?

The Speaker of the House has given us a complex display of virtue, vice and human flaws – along with an unconventional wife with a colourful past and an intensely political present.

In the corridors this week John Bercow got into a brawl with Mark Pritchard, deputy chairman of the 1922 Committee. Bercow demanded that Pritchard show him more obvious deference: "You will obey the courtesies of the House!" And Pritchard finished the very public exchange with: "You're not the fucking Royal Family, Mr Speaker!"

That is bruising stuff. The Speaker is the fourth most senior non-royal Briton, but the dignity that should accompany the position remains elusive for Bercow, whose flaws may yet undo him.

Many of us gathered in the Gallery – the "snobs and bullies" especially – laugh at the Dickensian parody of his speech, his nakedly self-interested canvassing, his need to speak so much from the chair ("Any more points of order? None? Not a little one?").

The Pritchard affair this week might not have mattered so much in isolation, but before Christmas Bercow made an enemy of the Government's Chief Whip. He chastised Patrick McLoughlin extensively, publicly, and – to Tory eyes – gratuitously. The expression on Bercow's face is available to all on YouTube and by golly it repays study. The anger is freaked with dislike. McLoughlin, who is built like a strike-breaking Derby miner, is said to be angrier now than he was at the time. He is not a man to be taken lightly.

Friends point out that Bercow is a reforming Speaker in an institution that resists reform with a medieval intensity. He has made more time for urgent questions, and he promotes the rights of backbenchers. He is extremely popular with Labour, the Doorkeepers and the Youth Parliament – their admiration rises like incense from the floor of the House. But recently, his vices have caught up with him.

It was clear some years ago that Bercow was going for the Speakership and was going to win it with Labour votes. To that end, he began a systematic campaign of mocking and belittling his Tory colleagues and sucking up to Labour.

The Speaker is supposed to be above politics. Yet Bercow remains intensely political and he clearly hates Tories, as his dealings with them on the floor of the House make clear. When Labour misbehave he calls out something like: "I don't know what the hon gentleman had for breakfast but I must try it myself." When Tories misbehave it is more like: "This barracking is repulsive. You will be silent or leave the chamber, I don't care which."

A pro-Bercow whip in the Government said he was surprised at the "unreasonable level of anger" among the new intake of MPs.

It is less likely that there will be a vote of no confidence in the Speaker (MPs shrink from that sort of confrontation). But he might start to lose control of the House as passions rise, and that would have a serious effect on his future. The first virtue in the House is order.

Bercow is an extremely accomplished operator. In committee he will remember the special interest of every member round the table. In the House he will say to some ancient Tory: "The hon Member who came to the House 27 years ago on Tuesday..." – and how they love that recognition. He has done scheduling favours for this right-winger who ought to be an enemy, and constituency favours for that prominent left-winger. He has friends in surprising places.

But then there's his rage. White, privileged, Oxbridge-educated grandees – and there are plenty of them in the Palace of Westminster – set Bercow off. "I wouldn't talk to a dog like John talks to X (a clerk)," a colleague says. So there are dramas brewing backstage. And that's the continuing story.

Simon Carr's biography of John Bercow is out this spring

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?