Friday, 12 July 2013

Big Bad John

Everyone is seemingly complaining about John Bercow in the House at the moment. I've never met the Speaker so cannot speak from experience*. Recently he has taken it out on ministers and the nosiest MPs in the House of Commons, but mainly Tories, which has led to lots of grumbling. So what do I think of Big Bad John Bercow?

The chap in white is the Speaker, spotted on the recent NUCA Westminster trip (see

Well as in any legal case the prosecution goes first. John Bercow has a habit of lambasting ministers for making too much noise and being un-parliamentary. Recently this has happened quite a lot with Philip Hammond being told he was ‘utterly incompetent' and ‘woefully inadequate’ and Anna Soubry being told that she may "think her views are relevant, but we are not interested." The way this was done is a bit rude and has led to the formation of the BBBs (Bol****ed By Bercow club) for those who have felt the iron tongue of the speaker. There is even a pretty badge.

The BBBs proposed badge, Bercow has a phobia of Bees and Wasps.

Leading on from this particular accusation is that the Speaker is actually quite biased in how he hands out his reprimands. A study of Hansard has found he shouted at 16 Tory MPs over a period of 6 months but only 2 Labour ones. Indeed Bercow did not reprimand a Labour MP who gave George Osborne a naughty finger over the floor of the Commons despite this being pointed out to him by many Tories. The biased view of John Bercow could come from the fact that less than 20 MPs from the Conservatives voted for him to be speaker. Does he thus hate the Tories because they didn't want him as speaker?

I actually saw this call for order in Parliament (I wasn't actually in the chamber), I like most that Bercow tails off at the end when fed up.

The defence, in my opinion, is quite strong however. Bercow has made it so the House of Commons has more time for backbench MPs and that the government is called to account. The use of Urgent Questions in the house has gone up dramatically so that in times of breaking problems the House can keep the government accountable to what they're doing. This can only lead to better governance. Also, on the point of bad conduct, ministers should be reprimanded on not getting procedure right, although possibly not so rudely. There is a reason for procedure and that is to allow everyone, including the public, to be informed so there is a fairness in the system for the House. This is a good thing.

John Bercow sends off the Coalition Government.

So  John Bercow is probably being a bit too rude recently but what he is actually doing is correct as it is holding the government to account and allowing backbenchers to have their say. However, I do definitely disagree with Mr Bercow on one thing and that is that PMQs, so long as people can hear what is going on, is not too rowdy, the public in general do not hate it is a major reason for watching it.

*Although I have spotted him playing tennis outside the Elizabeth Tower.

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