Thursday, May 8, 2014

Westminister is the ‘Mother of all Parliament’s’, it is time that the David Cameron and John Bercow feud was stopped, it damages the reputation of the House and demeans the Offices of State that they hold

Dear All

Westminster is rightly called the ‘Mother of Parliaments’, for the most part through-out its history, some of the finest politicians in Britain have given terrific speeches, notably, Lord Eden who gave a speech in the 1940's regarding the plight of Jewish people held in the Concentration Camps in occupied Europe.

In modern times, respect for Parliament inside the Commons and outside has taken a substantial hit. The Westminster expenses scandal, which was rightly exposed, showed an unpleasant side of Westminster that lower the reputation and dignity of the House.

In 2010, the Labour Party under Gordon Brown was in full retreat, the Government had not only lost their steam; they had become gaffe prone and ineffectual. Perhaps being too long in Government had dulled the senses and wits. Tony Blair was forced out, plotting was the order of the day from the Brown faction and once in power, Gordon Brown found out he couldn't lead the party. He lacked charisma and a sense of purpose, then came the Gillian Duffy moment, he lost the support of the British people.

On the way out the door sensing how the winds of change where afoot, the Labour Party decided to do a rotten trick, Tory MPs had called for the removal of Michael Martin, I also did myself, he wasn't fit to be the Speaker, not because he was working class, not because he lacked charisma. Michael Martin lacked a sense of a wider perspective of what his role was in the Commons. He mistakenly thought it was to be some kind of shop steward for MPs, to protect the status quo. 

I wrote many times he should either resign or be forced out. So, he resigns, this paves the way for a fresh start, however, Labour don't see it that way, so they decide to back Tory MP John Bercow for Speaker knowing that it would get right up the noses of the Conservative leadership. The Tories having got rid of one Speaker now found themselves stuck with someone who they also had a dislike of for whatever reason.

David Cameron far from putting a stop to the discord for the most part in the early days let his MPs vent, then matters were not helped by the Speaker's wife, Sally Bercow, her actions and particularly the photo shoot she did lowered the Office of Speaker. Perhaps she thought what she did was somewhat 'modern', it was a disgrace and an embarrassment. The Office of Speaker demands the highest standards, it is more than the person who holds, it is also more than a symbol, it is a key part of the House of Commons which encapsulates fairness, equality and on occasion 'order'.   

As Prime Mini ster David Cameron and Speaker John Bercow traded jibes again, in a deteriorating public relationship between the two men, this demeans both the Office of Prime Minster and the Office of the Speaker. Last week saw the  PM and the Speaker exchanged having ill-tempered exchanges when John Bercow interrupted Mr Cameron’s answers.

In a moment which could be considered 'light', Tory Mps cheered when the Speaker called Simon Burns, a Conservative MP who once called him a “stupid sanctimonious dwarf”.

That led to David Cameron having a go at the amount of extra time allocated for the session in what seems to be an overrun.

Mr Cameron said:

“Perhaps I can say that for him to be called at 12:33 on a Wednesday shows that if you stick at anything you can win.”

John Bercow responded:

“I’ve always practiced that philosophy myself: however long it takes we’re going to get through them.”

In some respects, both men at equally at fault, the Speaker frequently interrupts sessions of PMQs to tell MPs that he wants all the questions and answers to be heard. This doesn't seem to be an unreasonable request; however the House of Commons can be rather heated.

Depending on who is speaking and on what topic.

Last week David Cameron protested angrily after he was cut-off mid sentence by the Speaker, who told him he had said "enough". At the time David Cameron was having a pot shot at Ed Miliband's US elections adviser after heated exchanges with the Labour leader over Royal Mail privatisation.

Privatising Royal Mail in my opinion is wrong, that is another story.

In the Commons, if you pop your head over the parapet, you can expect fire, Cameron was in the middle of mocking Ed Miliband, he was obviously on a roll and felt he hadn't delivered enough blows.

As John Bercow called rowdy MPs to order, prompting the PM to shout:

"I haven't finished yet!"

The Speaker replied, grinning:

“In response to that question, the Prime Minister has finished, and he can take it from he has finished.”

Having watched the footage, I found that exchange rather funny, in life you can often be cut off in full flow.

As I recall when John Bercow was selected, my opinion was rather mixed, I had heard of him, I couldn't say I was a fan, but felt it was important that he be given a fair opportunity to prove himself. I think the jury is still out on him. In the past there have been some great Speakers, Betty Boothroyd I think remains the model to aspire to.

It serves no one that there is such a rift between the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House of Commons. It is therefore essential that this feud such as it is disappears and quickly. It would be a disgrace if this problem travels into the next Parliament.

Cameron has made no secret of his low regard for John Bercow.

He once said of his short stature:

“Some people claim John just can’t help being snooty and pompous with his parliamentary colleagues. I would say that’s totally unfair. I’ve never seen him look down on anyone in his life.”

Funny but is this right from the man who leads a country?

I think not.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

No comments: