Pass the sick­bag! It’s gush af­ter gush as His Speak­er­ship tear­fully packs up his ego

Scottish Daily Mail - - The Brexmas Election - ...on the ob­se­quious orgy of John Ber­cow’s fi­nal PMQs HENRY DEEDES

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

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