We have seen what a – how do we put it? – sub-optimal speakership looks like. And, frankly, it's been extremely good for business down my end of the spectrum. It hasn't been so good for parliament, obviously, but we can't have everything.
The candidates lined up to present themselves to their constituency, which showed the classic symptoms of a modern voting community: it didn't turn up. There can't have been 30 MPs in the room. Apathetic? Disengaged? Already made their minds up? True, nothing said in the room would have changed the voting dynamics – except perhaps for George Young saying "Good girl!" to Margaret Beckett. That soft whispering rush was 65 votes disappearing into the ether.
But they all looked good. George was sprightlier than in the House; Patrick Cormack the very image of a solid, combative Englishman. Richard Shepherd kept his voice under control and talked quite movingly about our ancient liberties. Alan Haselhurst was so thoroughly decent he could have been the man in the manor in a black and white film. If you fancy Ann Widdecombe you'd have liked her "By gum I believe it!" delivery. Alan Beith looked almost interesting for a moment and Parmjit Dhanda grew in stature in front of our eyes. None of them looked particularly political, even Margaret Beckett (although she managed that by not saying anything in particular). Who's missing? Someone's missing. Michael Lord. He'll go to the Lords, my humorous colleague said, "and become Lord Lord". There are things you shouldn't make jokes about.
And so we come to the favourite, John Bercow. He may very well get it. His vote has logic in it – along with comedy, politics and sheer, pullulating malevolence. No wonder he's the bookies' choice.
He's been subjected to a fair amount of hostile commentary (by "public school snobs and bullies" as he puts it). But I have to say he looked pretty good there, like the miniature Al Pacino we remember from happier days. Young. Modern. Media-wise. These aren't terrible things in themselves.
But his contempt for his colleagues is returned richly and if elected he certainly can't be said "to represent the whole House" (a recent innovation which sounds quite good). Stephen Pound's "horror" at the Speaker becoming "a mummer in a democratic roadshow" shows he won't represent all the Labour party either.
The trouble with Bercow is that his most obvious purposes are ulterior ones. He may not have any other sort. He is a living demonstration of that definition of politics that says they are animated by a hatred of their enemies rather than by love of their friends. But mark my words (fixing audience with glittering eye) he'll be very good for business down my way.Reuse content