Simon Carr: So for stage two of Bercow's Tory-hating speakership

The Sketch

Simon Carr
Friday 23 March 2012 01:00

But what's this? An Urgent Question on the Budget right before the Budget debate? Earlier in the week we'd had an emergency debate on Health right before the Health debate. John Bercow – in whose grant these devices are – is accelerating with enormous confidence into stage two of his Tory-hating speakership.

After setting the Queen straight on the boring, homophobic country she'd inherited (that was on Tuesday), he had to make do with tiny Tories yesterday. How he chastised and humiliated Jake Berry for bringing up Gordon Brown's tax affairs on the floor of the House.

After a lengthy tutorial on conventions, "He will now rise from his seat and apologise," the MP was told. Old-fashioned school ma'ams used to instruct six-year-olds in this way. You can see why it went out of fashion.

"Power reveals" is one of Boris Johnson's dicta. Bercow is feeling his power and revealing himself day by day. It is a fascinating sight. More and more spectators are gathering to watch.

The Budget debate, when eventually we got to it, had a new incarnation of Ed Balls.

He has data streams to persuade you that these are the same old Tories and this is a budget for millionaires. If you believe that, you won't need persuading of it here.

His new manner makes much of varied tone, pace and pitch. It's an improvement, but what an effort it takes.

He drops his voice and it sounds like someone whispering what they're shouting.

Much was made of a pre-election quote scoffing at the idea a lower tax rate would bring back the rich from Monaco to pay tax in Britain. George Osborne scoffed back, but Vince Cable laughed uneasily (it was his quote).

Poor old Vince, cruelly mocked, held up better than expected – despite the intensive coaching of the Chancellor at his side. He recalled the searing lessons of the previous 13 years with Labour, in general, and Balls, in particular, scornfully insisting tax rates above 40 per cent did rock all to bring in extra revenue (which is why, he said, they didn't raise them). Touché, surely.

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