The Sketch: This Conservative is very, very clever, but too stupid to conceal it

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The Independent Online

The civil Partnerships Bill went into its final stages yesterday afternoon (do not adjust your pacemakers). I missed a good bit of it by a false start in standing committee B, but I got there for the best bit. The Tory MP John Bercow was laying about himself in his most party political way, attacking, ridiculing and insulting politicians - I won't say left, right and centre because they were all Tories and none of the left or centre.

The civil Partnerships Bill went into its final stages yesterday afternoon (do not adjust your pacemakers). I missed a good bit of it by a false start in standing committee B, but I got there for the best bit. The Tory MP John Bercow was laying about himself in his most party political way, attacking, ridiculing and insulting politicians - I won't say left, right and centre because they were all Tories and none of the left or centre.

Christopher Chope, Edward Leigh and Desmond Swayne were all pierced, as was the fascinating Brazilian tango dancer who has taken on the mortal form of Gerald Howarth. That is, he calls himself Gerald, I prefer to think of him as Ronaldo. You may remember - or you may have blanked it out - that Mr Howarth led the sodomy campaign with the late Baroness Young (he was against it, for the record).

Proceeding smartly along, dismissing one of Mr Chope's arguments, Mr Bercow quoted Enoch Powell: "It is so blindingly obvious that only a highly intelligent person could fail to see it!" There was a pause of some sort and Mr Bercow said: "I can't understand WHY my honourable friend can't see it." It was one of the rudest things I've heard in the House; ruder even than Stephen Pound describing Mr Bercow himself as "something of a cult" (are you sniggering knowingly? I was as well).

John is on a very peculiar political journey. He was a child of the right with a Hang Nelson Mandela T-shirt.

Three years ago, he was addressing some late-night fringe meeting with a soaring "sceptr'd isle" number which made me hope he'd been drinking heavily. He married well, but outside the faith, and now he emotes on behalf of "the vulnerable".

The headmaster in Alan Bennett's play Forty Years On said: "We don't set much store on cleverness at Albion House." It's a thick strand of English life and an enduring one. Dr Arnold of Rugby, for instance, thought religion and character development were more important than academic achievement; perhaps he was right.

Mr Bercow, for all his abilities, speaks in Parliament with the perfection of a foreigner (the only thing, according to Dr Arnold, worse than cleverness). He is very, very clever but too stupid to conceal it. He once introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill without notes. He spoke in perfect paragraphs quoting names, dates, VAT numbers and Ordnance Survey grid references by heart.

I can't remember the subject of the Bill, and therein is the first of Mr Bercow's problems. When he speaks you remember his manner and not the matter.

His other, more serious problems might have been solved by Dr Arnold as well. Character development, that's what was needed. A smart lowering of the self-esteem, an early introduction to humility, a solid grounding on sound moral principles ... and then there wouldn't be all this attacking his own side on the floor of the House of Commons and fuelling speculation about switching sides to Labour.

Simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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