What they saying about Speaker Bercow
Most of it is not polite as Tories put the 46-year-old on probation until the next election
Is Conservative John Bercow destined to be the shortest-serving Speaker in history? It was beginning to look that way last night as Tory after Tory told media contacts how unimpressed they were at his election and, in effect, they were putting him on probation until the general election. If they still dislike him then as much as they do now, he is in danger of being voted out of office.
The Times reported a shadow cabinet member as saying: "He is not popular. He has enjoyed being Labour's man in this contest. His speech today was dreadful. He is quite unacceptable."
The antagonism is all about Bercow's personal politics. Once a right-winger - he was chairman of the pro-apartheid Federation of Conservative Students and a member of the far-right Monday Club - he has travelled so far leftwards that, before he entered the race for the Speaker's chair, many in the Commons assumed he might actually cross to Labour.
His conversion is thought to date back to his marriage in 2002 to Sally Illman, a former Labour Party activist. Whatever the reason, David Hencke in the Guardian reports that Bercow is now the sole Tory supporting Harriet Harman's equality legislation and prepared to join Diane Abbott to support all-black shortlists for parliamentary seats.
"Even youngish men can acquire wisdom as time goes by," Bercow told MPs yesterday, as he promised "immediately and permanently to cast aside" all his political views in order to fulfill his duties as Speaker.
Some of his Tory colleagues have even charged that he's only in it for the money. The Speaker gets a salary of £144,520 - more then double that of a backbench MP - plus a grace-and-favour apartment overlooking the Thames, and one of the most generous pension schemes in Britain. Given his youth - he's only 46 - if he does manage to stay on through the next election and beyond, he could build up a pension pot in the millions.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYINGMary Riddell in the Daily Telegraph: In Iran people are dying in the streets for a democracy that they will get one day, because they will settle for nothing less. In Westminster, for all the talk of gory battles and Shakespearian fates, there won't be blood. The contest for the Speaker did not evoke political revolution so much as a fractious struggle for the presidency of the Chipping Sodbury Allotment Association.
Rachel Sylvester in the Times: The resignation of Michael Martin was supposed to be a catalyst for change, but the process of choosing his replacement has revealed how little politicians understand the scale of the problem that they face. While the voters are crying out for honesty and integrity, the election of the new Speaker has been all about petty politicking and party power games.
Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail: They went and did the impossible. They voted for someone who could be even worse than Gorbals Mick! Large parts of the Tory benches refused to clap his election and they looked thoroughly sickened, sitting with arms crossed and shaking their heads. Real, gut-churning hatred. Little Squeaker Bercow has his work cut out.
The Mole for The First Post: This result only came after a battle that did little to unite MPs or show the Commons was set on fundamental reform rather than conducting business as usual. ·
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