Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Speaker's progress

At 2.30pm yesterday Speaker John Bercow began his long, slow procession to win back the trust of the British public. With his chaplain, secretary and a trainbearer following behind he marched along the usual route to Central Lobby and then down to the Commons chamber.

Apart from the smile, which a day after his victory he still couldn't wipe from his face, the most noticeable thing about him was the blue patterned tie replacing his predecessor’s still white collars. The suit and tie, a badge of the decent man, is his symbol of renewal but he still wore the Speaker’s gown, so the overall effect was "mature student on the way to a graduation ceremony".

"I hear the gown had to be shortened for him," quipped one Labour MP who stood in the member’s lobby as the Serjeant at Arms came down the way bearing the mace.

But most MPs were out to defend Mr Bercow from bitter Conservatives who murmured that they will replace him at the first opportunity. "They are trying to undermine him from the off, the same as they did with Michael Martin, just because he isn’t an establishment figure," claimed one Labour MP.

The Tories have nicknamed him the "Me,me,me"aker"- his acceptance speech, after all used the word "I" 19 times and the words "me" or "my" 15 times.

John Robertson was the first to congratulate Mr Bercow. "I hope that you will receive a lot more good luck and goodwill than some of your predecessors," said the robust Glasgow North West MP. He might need it.

Because he wanted the debate to make swift progress Speaker Bercow asked others not to repeat the congratulations. As if his ex-colleagues on the Tory benches were about to! Sir George Young tried not to look upset but his eyes kept being drawn back to the chair that could have been his. He left after 15 minutes, by a side door.

But a powerful man is everybody’s friend and later many Tory MPs patted Mr Speaker’s shoulder, or shook his hand. They will have to get used to him, and the change that tie promises.

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