Leading article: No small job

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The Independent Online

John Bercow was described as a "stupid, sanctimonious dwarf" in the House of Commons last week. But whatever certain MPs make of their Speaker's intellect, manner or height, they cannot argue that he is short on the bravery front.

Speaker Bercow only narrowly escaped being defenestrated when the new parliament convened after the general election. But that brush with political death has not stunted Speaker Bercow's modernising zeal. For he is now is proposing to overhaul that cherished Commons ritual: Prime Minister's Questions.

Speaker Bercow wants less "organised barracking" from each side of the Commons when the Prime Minister takes questions from the Leader of the Opposition, arguing that though journalists enjoy the bear pit atmosphere, the general public are repulsed by the sight and sound of it.

This, of course, raises profound questions about what sort of nation we are at heart. Are we an oppositional country or a consensual one? Do we prefer rhetorical shock and awe or polite disagreement? Who really knows? But we suspect that, if Speaker Bercow is serious about stopping the racket, he has taken on a suitably towering task.