The Sketch: Order! Order! Commons gets a fresh dose of Bercow

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The Independent Online

There they all were, a Chamber full of the latest Commons – among their number 232 new ones. Row upon row of them, with their plans, schemes, values and principles. They'd come from all over Britain to Westminster to help make the world a better place.

I looked down at their faces, imagining their hopes and parliamentary dreams – and felt like Hannibal Lecter.

But we are gourmands, are we not, so let's take it slowly.

The place hadn't been so full in a decade. The Doorkeepers must have been acting as Japanese carriage packers do in the Tokyo rush-hour. Behind the chair, behind the bar, up and down the aisles and in the cross benches, MPs everywhere.

The most original sight was Nick Clegg at ease on the government front bench. He was sitting an awfully long way from any other Lib Dem. I wonder if he has marked the nearest exit, as people are supposed to do in case of emergency. Cameron scrummaged in to applause from his benches. Clapping. There'll be a singalong before the end, if this goes on.

Sir Peter Tapsell, now Father of the House, worked his way through the crush to sit in the Chief Clerk's seat and chair proceedings. He had modernised his dress, I'm sorry to say. A business tie with his tail coat. Sir Peter began his parliamentary career as PPS to Pitt the Elder, you know. He must be 250 years old, mustn't he? He certainly doesn't look it.

Black Rod marched in to summon them in the name of the Queen. He was properly dressed in black and gold. With his rod, of course; he hadn't forgotten that. And as he walked in, there was silence of the lambs. Yes, Denis Skinner had lost the will to heckle.

After that, there was the drama of Sir Peter Tapsell asking "Mr John Bercow" to confirm he was willing to put himself up for re-election. Bercow spoke. Yes, he spoke.

Then, to propose the motion of re-election Malcolm Rifkind rose. He said he'd watched Bercow exercising virtues of impartiality, courage, authority. The pinch marks on my skin started to bleed.

Cameron led his front bench in calling Aye to "all those in favour". Most of the Tories assented, on the PM's instructions, and no doubt he was right. Voting a sitting Speaker out would have looked pretty bloodthirsty. And to give Bercow credit, he is a remarkable operator. The canvassing in Portcullis House was a work of art.

Half a dozen answered the call for Noes. Their names are written in the Book of Life. But Sir Peter "collected the voice of the House" and decided there was no need for a vote. The Opposition roared.

Bercow's enemies had already realised there was no chance of defeating him in an open ballot and had retired to their fetid lair to snarl and sneer. But it was a courteous occasion. The boxers touched gloves and nodded respectfully at each other.

Jim Sheridan and David Blunkett failed to spoil the occasion (can't they do anything right?). Not a squeak from the Lib Dems, though. Very odd. More silence of the lambs? We can only hope.