Tory MP: Bercow is ‘stupid sanctimonious dwarf’
Spat over health minister’s dwarf insult is latest challenge to Speaker's authority
Commons Speaker John Bercow has been called a "stupid sanctimonious dwarf" in the latest challenge to his authority by fellow Tory MPs. Backbencher Simon Burns muttered the insult after the 5ft 6in Speaker reprimanded him during health questions in the Commons yesterday afternoon.
Bercow chastised Burns, the Conservative MP for Chelmsford, when he turned directly to another backbencher to speak to him, instead of facing the House and addressing his comments through the Speaker, as is customary. As Labour MPs shouted that they could not hear, Bercow told Burns that he and other MPs must "show respect" to whoever is chairing the debate.
"I have just had Members complaining that they can’t hear," the Speaker added. "You must face the House - it’s a very simple point, I have made it to others and they have understood it."
Burns, who was one of a number of Tory MPs to oppose Bercow’s re-election last month, made his "stupid dwarf" remark as he stooped down to look as short as possible. The Speaker was too far away to hear the comment but it was picked up a handful of other backbenchers as well as those in the nearby press gallery.
After the session Burns did not deny that he had made the remarks but would only say: "We will leave it at that. I'm saying I have nothing to say."
Last night Burns, who is a junior health minister, faced the ire of dwarfism charities who called the comment "derogatory and offensive". Also wading into the debate was DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr, who called the junior minister’s conduct "disrespectful".
Meanwhile Bercow's wife Sally, who stands at 5ft 11in, came to her diminutive husband's defence on Twitter. Sally Bercow, a former Labour council candidate, wrote: "So much for the 'new politics' eh Mr Burns." ·
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