Simon Carr: Mr Speaker... author of a great Jekyll and Hyde psychodrama

Sketch: Bercow is a mash-up of 1950s housemaster, music hall Master of Ceremonies, and TV game show host

Related Topics

Can we have a debate on fawning sycophancy, shameful grovelling, unctuous toadying, ritual subservience and the Liberal Democrats?"

That was John Bercow's question from March 2001, in his carnivorey-Tory days when he described the Liberal Democrats as "a left wing party scavenging for right wing votes". He's come a long way since then. Life is a journey. Maybe he'll be saying it again in five years' time from the House of Lords.

There is, coincidentally, some talk at the moment of a Liberal Speaker to replace him. The last one was elected 80 years ago in 1921. Since then there have been six Conservatives, four Labour and the current one who's a bit of both.

The alternation between the parties hasn't been exactly regular, but the one consistent exclusion has been the Liberal party.

When you look back at John Henry Whitley – he works rather well as a contemporary precedent. He was elected as a "Coalition Liberal" at the end of Lloyd George's wartime government and presided over Conservative and Labour governments for the next seven years.

Currently, the party has three good candidates for the job. Ming Campbell, Alan Beith and David Heath. All clever, experienced, capable and decent.

But their election does require a vacancy, so here's a summary of the argument.

First and foremost, the Speaker has to rise above party and administer the business of the Commons in an impartial, even-handed way.

It's perfectly possible. Betty Boothroyd and deputy Speakers, Sylvia Heal and Alan Haselhurst – from their different parties none has favoured this side or that. They are, in an old-fashioned word, thoroughly respectable.

John Bercow's record is different. Actually it's so different I rather hope he stays on. His dislike of certain Tory MPs is played out so publicly in the House it's a serial psychodrama. It's clear to observers that he Jekylls to Labour and Hydes to Tories. There will be more of that to come, as the temperature rises over the summer.

Then there is his manner, his official language. This is a mash-up of 1950s housemaster, music hall Master of Ceremonies, and TV game show host. It may be his impression of how the dignified parts of the constitution should talk. It conceals a mass of resentments, insecurities and alienation quite at odds with the intended effect.

Now, I won't hear a word against Mrs Bercow. She isn't required to be Caesar's wife in this day and age. But coming out on Twitter for Ed Balls in Labour's leadership campaign wasn't wise. Ed Balls was her husband's patron in some committee of research, and his sympathies are also known. But if the Speaker and his wife are for Balls how are the supporters of the Milibands and Andy Burnham supposed to feel?

And finally, the Wright committee votes at the end of the last Parliament. All votes for committee positions were to be by secret ballot – including the election of the Speaker. The one exception was the RE-election of the Speaker. This special arrangement was stitched together by John Bercow and Harriet Harman, to help keep a pro-Labour Speaker in place – something that would be helpful in a tight Parliament.

It was a blatant manipulation of the constitution for party and personal reasons. And it may well work. Members who vote No in tomorrow's public vote will have their names on a list, and MPs don't like that. Let's see what happens.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: A widow’s tale with an unexpected twist

John Rentoul

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing