Simon Carr: My ill-tempered encounter with the Speaker

Eyewitness

Wednesday 12 May 2010 00:00
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That encounter with the Speaker in full. John Bercow, Speaker, Britain's First Commoner (that's an honorific for the class conscious of you out there), was greeting and welcoming his new intake in Portcullis House. He is master of this domain.

Then – he's walking down the colonnade with his wife and sees two of his tormentors, Carr and Quentin Letts from the Daily Mail. He adopts a manner so exaggerated it's an antic disposition.

"THERE you are! Magnificent men! Mahhhvellous to seeee you! How ARE you! What are you DOING now!" There is more of this such that I put my hand on his shoulder, with not entirely false concern, "Are you all right John?"

"Are you drunk?" Letts asks more brutally. It's before midday.

"More your problem than mine," the Speaker replies. "What are you WRITING ABOUT today," he says with enormous articulation. "About this, I think," I said.

He turned to Letts: "Tell me, what paper are you writing for? Are you still writing for the Mail?" There is a bit more to and fro while he gives us to understand he never reads such low material.

And then back to me: "I don't want to sow dissension between you two IMPORTANT gentlemen but it was here – on this spot, this very spot" (some emphatic pointing at the ground) "that you confessed to being a BULLEE but denied being a SNOB! And you said, 'That's more Quentin's line'."

This sank in a moment and Letts said: "I'm a terrific snob. My role model is Hyacinth Bucket. Love the values of self-improvement."

Then Bercow turned back to me saying: "But you went to some sort of a minor public school, didn't you? I find minor public school boys very often don't come to much in life. They don't do well. They think themselves on the fringes of the 'county set' and they very rarely do much in life."

And then (sensitive eyes turn aside now): "I myself am the Jewboy son of a taxi driver." He repeated the line, for good measure.

David Cameron paused in passing to congratulate him, and Bercow reverted to his elaborate manner: "And how are you enjoying your new majority?"

"I am luxuriating in it," the Tory leader said, with a smile so amiable and amused it seemed to twist the Speaker's insides.

Keeping the commentary to a minimum: Speakers normally behave with more... confidence than this.

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