First there was Speakergate. This was a spectacle unacceptable to opposition politicians. Now we have Newspeakergate. This is, guess what, a spectacle unacceptable to opposition politicians – well, to what looks like most of the Tory Party, anyway. But the new Speaker is a Tory MP! Why so glum, Dave and chums?
Ah well. Mr New Speaker is John Bercow. Who he? Member for Buckingham since 1997 – yes, there were such things as new Tory MPs that year – Bercow started his political career on the right of the party. He has, however, moved in the direction of the centre ground since, and in his hardly disguised bid for the Speaker’s chair has become too close to Labour for many on his own side of the House. There has been talk of “disloyalty”, although, in Bercow’s defence, his crime seems no worse than the following of conscience – something that Young Dave’s supposedly inclusive approach might be thought not just to allow, but encourage.
Bercow may also have been influenced in his political journey by his wife’s deeply subversive attachment to the Guardian – she has, moreover, been known to vote Labour – and the autism of one of his children, this latter being held to have moved Bercow to a more compassionate outlook. But here again, David Cameron has had the chastening experience of looking after son Ivan during his child’s painful and tragically short life. Two souls more alike should be hard to find – yet yesterday evening, as Bercow was ceremonially “dragged off” to the Speaker’s chair, Cameron showed no empathy whatever. Most Tories sat on their hands, offering no applause.
Why so? Because many of Young Dave’s chaps believe that Labour members voted en masse for Bercow, because they think that his election will rile Cameron. Anyone doubting this analysis need look no further than the blog of Tory MP Nadine Dorries, who has been less than charitable towards her party colleague. I do try and judge the pronouncements of Ms D on their merits – I liked very much her robust response to the Maily Telegraph, but was more sceptical on her Zimbabwe Moment – but on this matter, she is certainly not airing a fringe opinion.
Indeed, the talk is of a future Tory Government moving to replace Speaker Bercow with someone, shall we say, “more acceptable”. This shows that the Tories do not get it. They accuse Labour and the Lib Dems of being “tribal”, only to behave in a manner yet more “tribal”.
Bercow may be a disaster. But, then again, he may not. Let us find out which he is, before wanting him out.