The election of a new Speaker was an opportunity for Parliament to show voters it was capable of doing something democratic with a modicum of grace. But alas, getting one over on the Tories was more important for our Government.
It was a colossal farce. If you missed the whole thing, here is a brief recap. During the candidates’ speeches, Margaret Beckett attempted a joke – her opening line was a gag – that resulted in four long seconds of silence. It was painful. Ann Widdecombe also went for humour but, alas, it was the same tickler she told last week – ‘I think I’m unique’ (pause for effect, look up coyly).
This was followed by a few interchangeable men who all looked like they could do the job well enough, but nothing could have prepared us for John Bercow. Like a simian child overfed on E numbers, he performed. The Conservatives didn’t know where to look: cue a collective of pin-striped clenched buttocks. The Labour benches looked stunned: ‘what a wheeze, let’s vote for this nutter.’ If it had been auditions for the school musical, they would have given him the lead, purely out of fear of what he would do if they didn’t.
The voting followed. John Mann MP showed courage and intelligence by destroying his paper. Mann, you are a prize prat. Your one-man protest was laughable. Why didn’t you just remove a sock and toss it in the air? It would have had more effect. If you are unhappy, tell your party and its leader to call a general election.
The role of Speaker is now horribly tarnished, not just because of previous incumbent Michael Martin and expenses, but because of the unseemly tactics and whipping during Monday’s vote. Labour MPs put party politics before personal conviction; they are ridiculous class obsessives, unable to think straight any more.
Bercow, as the new Speaker, has a huge PR job on his hands. He needs to gain respect not only from those who didn’t vote for him but from those who did. He needs to display the sort of neutrality the House has lacked for years. He has a lot to prove. Best of luck.