What his enemies had wanted, expected and prayed for most devoutly was an 18th-century morality tale along the lines of the idle apprentice. John Bercow would be led by his prejudices desires and defects into situations he couldn't control and would be dismantled by them.
Annoyingly for those high-minded moralists, he's doing rather well. He is more even-handed in his treatment of the parties, and has relaxed his grip on PMQs to allow members to ventilate their feelings. His game-show-host tendencies have been reined in and are limited to things like the "last but not least" trope he uses at the end of the session. Not a hanging offence in these liberal days.
He does have a tendency to be drawn out of the Speaker's proper sphere into the low world of politics. He declared himself "a Balls man" before the Labour leadership campaign. Now he has surprised the world by not accepting a government amendment to a backbench motion.
It's unheard of. The Government amendment is always accepted – even when it negates the Motion as it did yesterday, reducing its impact by 90 per cent. Unprecedented.
Alistair Carmichael – deputy chief whip – stood up to question this. That's also unheard of. That's "challenging the authority of the chair". Dawn Primarolo was in it at the time, and reacted with asperity. But Carmichael persisted in asking "what new considerations were taken into account" in reaching the decision. That was tantamount to saying the Speaker had been improperly influenced.
Bercow's supporters will applaud him for denying the Whips their tactic. The left enjoyed watching the Government being forced to vote in favour of contaminated blood.
To his opponents, Bercow's affections and submerged loyalties are alive and well. And it's clear what a beneficiary he is of the arrangement Harriet Harman put in place – that the only election that still takes place by public vote is the re-election of the Speaker. He would never have got back in a secret ballot.Reuse content