Well, he wasn’t the Speaker I’d have chosen. He’s bumptious, pompous, arrogant and obnoxious – and those are his good points. Choosing a Speaker in order to annoy the opposition doesn’t have a fantastic pedigree either. But there we are. A couple of points do occur to me, however, which people who are greeting Bercow’s victory with elation ought to consider.
The first is that the Labour party have less than a year left in power. Not long before a grinning front bencher can sneer “we are the masters now”. Taking important political decisions for petty political reasons is funny now. Less funny next year when the subject of party funding, or postal ballots, or voter registration, or union affiliation, or House of Lords reform come up. As examples of bi-partisan co-operation go, this one was not up there with the best.
The second is that Labour have bought a bit of a pig in a poke. John Bercow’s overwhelming characteristic has been neither loyalty nor consistency. He was Torier than the Tories before he got Buckingham, one of the safest Tory seats in the country. Under 12 years of Labour rule, he tracked ever closer to the Blairite big tent, teetering on the very edge of defecting last year. But now he’s Speaker, he needs nothing from Labour. Indeed, the only threat to his position would be a Tory Government taking steps to dethrone him. I wouldn’t be too surprised if he starts tracking back. PMQs should be interesting at any rate. In a sense, Bercow is on a year’s probation. Obvious slippage, and the reappointment of the Speaker for the next Parliament, normally a formality, may be a real contest.