The look on the faces of the Tories hadn't been seen since the Great Stink of 1858. There was an almost visible heat ripple of loathing coming off the top of their Conservative heads.
Sir Peter Tapsell leant back from the shoulders to regard a vile new microbe. David Davis wore an expression of incredulous intensity. James Gray next to him was generating an emotion as yet unknown to either medical science or the judicial system.
What a blow it has been. John Bercow, the new Speaker. What a big fat blowfly he is in their jar of Neutrogena.
He is there, though, to restore the reputation of the House of Commons. "It's a tall order," he'd told us on election day, "and I'm only a little chap. But I think I can rise to the occasion." The taller Tories certainly found their gorges rising to the occasion.
Charles Walker, Bercow's sole Tory nominator found himself sitting next to George Young, the second tallest Tory and Bercow's runner-up. Walker had chosen the single worst seat in the Palace of Westminster, what a strange young man he is. His whole personality seemed to be bent out of shape by the baronet's gravitational field. The poor fellow's face twisted and buckled as George gently turned one way or the other.
A few minutes earlier, Bercow had made his debut in the Speaker's procession into Parliament. His first appearance in public. We heard the policeman's long, melancholy call like a sea horn in the fog: "Speeeeakerrrr!"
He was among us, Little Chap. And he had modernised his dress. Symbolism is important in politics. Was he wearing Man City strip? Or sunglasses? I'm sorry to say he was in Top Shop day wear. Ordinary clothes with a baggy, academic gown.
Oh, for the days of that gorgeous dandy Speaker Martin – he who wore the lace at his throat like a highwayman at the old inn door. Those were the days, weren't they? Or weren't they, it's too recent to remember.
Back in the Commons, Little Chap was in the Big Chair. The Tories were longing for him to present all his defects in the most concise form.
The script they had written for him went: "In the first discharge of the duties of the chair, it is less than a nostrum but more than an axiom that it shall be incumbent on the senior members of the official opposition who wish to contribute to the proceedings to do so in a condition of trouserlessness. Sergeant at Arms! Bind him!"
But having beaten about the bush I have to bring you to the bad news. He was perfectly all right. He performed creditably, even ably.
Some humour, some charm, a deft manner in making the big Pole Kazinsky be quiet. The thing is, he has his heart's desire. He will now defend his position with everything he needs to use. He will deploy integrity, he will bring in some modesty, he will dial up a little loyalty. Acquiesence when necessary, defiance if it's needed, impartiality if that's what is required.
There may be a little work to do there. An early slip was detected – it surely won't happen again. He'd called Sir Peter Tapsell. A little context. Tapsell was the man whom Bercow had mocked in his election speech. He'd put on a stupid-old-toff voice to say, "You're not just too young, you're FAR TOO YOUNG! Speakers should be practically SENILE!" This attack on one of his own side very much pleased his Labour friends and appalled his Tory enemies.
So, he called Tapsell, Tapsell started booming away and a tight and tiny smile appeared on Steve McCabe's face. He's a Labour whip, you see, and was sitting by the Speaker's chair.
McCabe's eyes drifted leftwards and upwards. "Bwah wah wah," Sir Peter went. Bercow's mouth was twitching too while his eyes were drifting right and downwards. His eye met the government whip's and their mutual smile became a little conspiracy.
It is a great crime for a Speaker to canoodle with any sort of whip.
But that's the end of that. He's played a miserable hand so skillfully it's hard to see him misplaying his aces now.Reuse content