Is there a sillier man in British politics than speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow? Please don’t write in on a postcard because the question was a rhetorical one to which the answer is no there isn’t.
Last weekend Mr Bercow popped up on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme to tell us all that in his esteemed opinion MP’s should expect to receive ‘rough justice’ from the parliamentary authorities over their excessive expenses claims.
In full theatrical flow he declaimed that ‘the public perception of the way in which we operate is so negative that it is necessary to accept a wholesale, fundamental and irrevocable change. There’s an element of rough justice, but it is necessary.’
Justice is certainly needed, but it is never necessary for it to be ‘rough’, not in the way Mr Speaker means it anyway since he is merely trying to cash in on the wave of outrage about flat screen TV’s and Kit-Kats paid for out of the public purse that has been washing around since the summer. What we need, but still haven’t had, is a reasoned debate about just what we pay the people who make our laws, with men like John Bercow on the job we may never get one.
There is, even worse, a distinct touch of hypocrisy in John Bercow’s call for rough justice to be applied to MP’s caught fiddling their expenses, after all he is still battling allegations that he spent £45,581 renovating his lavish apartments in the Palace of Westminster. He initially claimed the work cost no more than £20,000 and then that he had no control over how much was spent, although, of course, he did by exercising enough common sense to realise that when the public is up in arms over just how high on the hog its representatives live its not a good idea to be planning some expensive DIY.
Common sense though does not seem to be something of which the current occupant of the Speaker’s Chair is ever going to have a surplus. He is a lightweight so light he must need led ingots sewn into his turn ups just to keep him on the ground.
John Bercow presents himself as a bold reformer, most recently in an article written for the usually sensible New Statesman, but is version of change is always cosmetic. Replacing the Speaker’s, admittedly absurdly anachronistic, robes with a lounge suit and an academic gown does not constitute modernisation, merely half hearted window dressing.
The word is that Mr Bercow gained one of the highest posts in the land by virtue of being more articulate that his predecessor and because certain Labour MP’s value his ability to annoy his fellow Tories. There is, of course an even better method of annoying the Tories, they could formulate some half decent policies, sadly this week’s Queen’s Speech suggests that Labour have largely missed that particular bus.
The good news is that former UKIP leader Nigel Farage is to break with precedent and stand against John Bercow at the general election, he might just win too. If that happens a newly elected crop of MP’s might just be persuaded to drag a real reformer to the chair.
Farewell to the Equalizer.
The death was announced this week of Edward Woodward star of horror classic The Wicker Man at the age of 79.
His agent Janet Glass told the press that he was ‘universally loved and admired for his classic roles on film and television’.
Perhaps the greatest of all those roles was that of soulful hit man Callan in the television series of the same name, a programme that captured perfectly the weary cynicism and simmering rage of Britain in the seventies, unlike many programmes from that era it is still watchable almost forty years later.
The stature of a performer is measured in the respect offered to him by his peers and the extent to which his work remains relevant; Edward Woodward passed the test of true greatness by excelling by both standards.