John Bercow makes bid for Speaker
The Mole: And even Labour’s Martin Salter is saying that he might back the Tory MP’s audacious run for the post, says our Westminster insider
The Tory MP and former hard-right student activist John Bercow has infuriated senior Conservatives by bursting out of the starting blocks in the race to become the next Speaker of the Commons before they have got their pumps on.
One senior member of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs complained: "If Labour really want to be vicious to the Conservative Party, they'll back Bercow. We can't stand the man."
Forty-six-year-old Bercow, the MP for Buckingham, is running rings round the likes of the bicycling baronet, Sir George Young, and another knighted contender, Sir Patrick Cormack, who have not officially launched their campaigns. He has been phoning his friends in the press at the crack of dawn to push his case.
The Mole can reveal that Bercow's one-man campaign has been taken up by Labour MP Martin Salter - the diamond geezer with the mockney accent who has the Red Flag on his mobile phone. Salter, who defended the last Speaker against "class war" attacks on him, has circulated a letter from Bercow to other Labour MPs saying he is "minded" to support him.
This is remarkable given that Bercow was once a member of the Monday Club and chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students, an outfit disbanded by Lord Tebbit because of its loony right-wing politics.
Bercow admits he might have been a raving Thatcherite in his youth, but says: "I have been on a political journey of enlightenment from the Thatcherite Right to the political centre ground. In asking colleagues for their support, I am asking people to vote not for a Conservative but for a Speaker who has what it takes to restore trust in Parliament and politicians."
Bercow adds: "Following the encouragement of many colleagues from all parties, I will be putting my name forward as a candidate in the election for the next Speaker. I am doing this for three main reasons: to bring forward the necessary reforms to the House; to strengthen the role of backbenchers in both speaking up for their constituents and holding the Government of the day to account; and to be a highly visible and forthright advocate for Parliamentary democracy.
"My consuming passions in Parliament include special educational needs, the fight against global poverty, and for constitutional reform and the equal treatment of people, irrespective of gender, race, disability, age or sexual orientation."
Meanwhile Gordon Brown is being pressed by reformers in his Cabinet - led by Peter Mandelson, Harriet Harman, James Purnell and David Miliband - to seize the moment to reform the whole of Parliament.
Mandelson has suggested a British constitutional convention on the model of the Scottish constitutional convention and Brown appears to have bought the idea. He hinted during yesterday's Prime Minister's Questions at plans to call a constitutional convention after the European elections on June 4.
Some senior Tories believe this would be dangerous, because it would once again show that Brown is more interested in grabbing headlines for himself and bulldozing through his own plans than seeking cross-party cooperation. Some potential Tory candidates for the Speaker's chair believe that any move to reform Parliament should be under a Speaker's convention, not a Brown stitch-up.
And some Labour MPs see dangers in this too. The Liberal Democrats are already beating the drums for the introduction of proportional representation for Westminster elections, a fully-elected House of Lords, and there are even calls for the role of the Queen in Parliament to be ended.
In other words, they want a row that started over MP's claims for duck houses, moat-cleaning and silk cushions to be turned into the Glorious Revolution of 2009. It may be mad. But the Mole says Bercow is just the man to deliver it! ·
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