Pass the sickbag! It’s gush after gush as His Speakership tearfully packs up his ego
Traditionally when a new Commons Speaker is elected, they are physically dragged to their vast green leather chair by fellow MPs.
it’s a ritual dating back to days of yore and relates to the occupant’s duty to communicate the Commons’ opinions to the monarch.
if ever a king or queen disliked the message, Speakers risked premature death at the hands of an executioner. as a result, people often required gentle persuasion to accept the post.
How times change. the position is now a plum posting.
John Bercow was dragged to the chair in 2009 but would’ve stomped barefoot over broken light-bulbs to have got there. He couldn’t wait to park his rump on that plump cushion and start making his diminutive presence felt.
Judging by the obsequious sendoff he was afforded at his final session of Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, a heavy-duty winch may now be required to remove him when he relinquishes his throne today.
tributes slurped round the chamber like dollops of lyle’s Golden Syrup. in turn, His Speakership smiled bashfully, a flattened palm resting against a heavily blood-vesselled cheek.
Mainly though, he nodded his head like a pampered prince being slobbered over by a particularly gushing courtier. ‘Quite so! Quite so!’ How he will miss this weekly opportunity to self-preen.
For what is supposed to be a grilling of the Prime Minister increasingly became the John Bercow Show. although the son of a downto-earth london taxi-driver, somewhere along the way he has affected the manner and linguistic stylisms of a powder-wigged regency fop.
those who tune into PMQs will have noticed that for him no word is too opaque, no phrase in his peculiarly orotund repertoire is too ornate.
‘i’m not remotely interested in your pettifogging objection chuntered inelegantly from a sedentary position,’ has been a popular retort. Similarly, referring to male MPs as ‘young man’ – even those several years his senior.
often such remarks are meant as put-downs, designed to humiliate. regular targets are those on the government benches. during the general election debate, for example, he adopted a tone with Vicky Ford (Con, Chelmsford) which was so unnecessarily dismissive it made me wince. it may be no coincidence that Ford had previously objected to Bercow’s behaviour.
another complaint is that he allowed the half-hour PMQs slot to drag on. yesterday, it lasted 75 minutes, surely a record.
Boris Johnson’s tribute to the at-last-departing Speaker was a vial of cyanide wrapped inside a chocolate bon-bon. Sweet and lovely on the outside, pure poison in the middle.
He said the tennis-fan Speaker had presided not just as an umpire with a ‘tony Montana scowl’ but as ‘a player in his own right’ – a reference to the Scarface mobster and an allusion to Bercow having overstepped the mark with his needless interferences.
Johnson noted how Bercow had spread his opinions like ‘an uncontrollable tennis-ball machine delivering a series of literally unplayable and formally unreturnable volleys and smashes.’ translation: He’s also a bully.
also, his habit of letting sessions over-run and which had ‘stretched time more than Stephen Hawking’. Johnson ribbed him, too, for failing to honour his pledge to stand down last year, saying Bercow’s farewell had taken longer than Frank Sinatra’s.
BerCow roared with laughter but then why not, as he was yet again the centre of attention. Jeremy Corbyn predictably laid the grease on thick. He praised Bercow for his promotion of lBGt rights. there was a snippy mention of how he’d made the Commons less of a palatial club and he made an overly chummy reference to their mutual support of arsenal Football Club.
Corbyn incidentally, was in pretty good voice, as he has been ever since deciding to back an election. whether this was his eagerness for power or because he might be moved to quieter pastures by Christmas isn’t yet clear.
SnP westminster leader ian Blackford said the tartan welcome mat would always be laid out for Bercow. Good old Blackers.
what a ludicrous braggard he is. He spoke as if he sits on Hadrian’s wall with a crown and sceptre deciding who comes in and out of Scotland.
a love-in followed with Sir Kenneth Clarke (Con, rushcliffe). appearing in his own last PMQs, he hoped Bercow’s successor would live up to his ‘considerable achievements’. Sir Ken didn’t say he wished they would continue to thwart Brexit but that’s what he meant. Bercow returned the compliment. ‘i, for one, want to salute him. He is a great man.’
His Speakership spoke as if his own imprimatur was the highest accolade anyone could receive.
the labour benches, who’ve delighted in Clarke’s rudeness towards Boris since he became
Prime Minister, burst into applause. Gush followed gush. Plaid Cymru’s liz Saville-roberts, with a voice like a sozzled duchess, murmured in welsh: ‘i do not think we will see your like again, and we will miss you in this House’. Many of us wondered what the welsh was for ‘pass the sick
bag’. Ronnie Campbell (Lab, Blythe Valley) called Bercow a ‘canny laddy’. Sir John Hayes (Con, South Holland and the Deeping) praised his ‘encyclopaedic grasp of detail.’
Observing all this in the visitors’ gallery were the Speaker’s wife Sally and their three young children. When Bercow turned to address them, his voice quivered. ‘I will never forget it,’ he gurgled. ‘And I will always be grateful for it.’
Cue more Labour applause. Add glissando violin strings. Gently fade out. Roll end credits.
All that was left was for the Speaker to announce he had appointed a new house chaplain to replace Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who is to be ordained as the Bishop of Dover. This was just days after he told MPs how he’d originally appointed Hudson-Wilkin despite opposition from ‘various bigots and racists’.
With one final primp, he enunciated: ‘I was right and they were wrong.’
How John Bercow would love that phrase to be carved in stone on a statue of himself.
No phrase in his orotund repertoire is too ornate: John Bercow’s long goodbye in the Commons yesterday