Update on Speaker election

Hadn’t realised it had been a whole week since I blogged. The advantage of Twitter is that you can do it on the move, or in those brief moments while you’re on hold waiting to be put through to someone’s office, or while you’re waiting for the start of a whips meeting. Blogging requires rather more effort. Being in the whips office also involves fairly early starts (not particularly early compared to ‘normal’ jobs, but early when you don’t get in from work till 11pm the night before), so I’m trying to be disciplined and not stay up late at night blogging as is my usual wont.

Anyway, have obviously missed a fair bit during the past week, although I did tweet my way through the Speaker contest on Monday, which seemed the best way of covering it. Despite ludicrous press reports of a whipping operation in favour of Margaret Beckett, which seem to have been triggered by the simple fact that one whip happened to express a preference for her candidature, I ended the contest as I began it, by backing John Bercow, as did some other colleagues in the whips office. Apart from anything else, you can’t whip a secret ballot. How could you?

Although convention dictated that we shouldn’t really elect another Labour Speaker, that wasn’t much of a factor in my decision to vote for a Tory. (Definitely the first and almost definitely the last time in my life I will do so!)

If there had been a Labour candidate who I thought fitted the bill, with the right mix of experience and commitment to reform, I would have backed them, probably over and above a similar Tory. But I thought it would be wrong to back Margaret Beckett, who had for so long, and until so recently, been a member of the executive branch of Government, and who didn’t seem to me to be particularly enthused by the cause of parliamentary reform. And Parmjit simply hasn’t been in Parliament long enough.

One of the parliamentary sketch writers – probably Quentin Letts who seems to loathe Bercow with a vengeance – said that Labour MPs voted for Bercow ‘to spite the Tories’. Again, not true. OK, I knew they weren’t enthusiastic supporters of his, but even so I was surprised by how truly ungracious they were after his victory, which was met by rather unparliamentary applause from the Labour and Lib Dem benches (and the Nats and Independents), but sullen silence from the Tories. In the end Cameron had to force them to their feet for the standing ovation, and many of them still sat stubbornly in their seats. Since Monday I’ve overheard several conversations between Tories who are absolutely seething.

So what has he done to upset his colleagues? Was he really a socialist Trojan horse in the Tory ranks? No, I don’t think he was. Have a look at what Steve Richards in the Independent is saying. I think he’s got it spot on. The Tories almost universal dislike of John Bercow is not a reflection of how far to the left he’s moved since his (awful) Tory Boy days. It’s a sign of how far to the right the Tories under Cameron still are.

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