Bercow lashes out at Commons critics

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John Bercow gets hot under the collar - or "exasperated" at least
John Bercow gets hot under the collar - or "exasperated" at least

Commons Speaker John Bercow has hit back at his enemies, from Tory backbenchers and political journalists to prime minister David Cameron, in an extraordinarily outspoken show of defiance.

The controversial Commons figurehead used an interview with the World at One to defy those who have questioned his judgement and neutrality in the three years since he first sat in the Speaker's chair.

He has frequently been accused of a bias towards the Labour benches by Conservative MPs – most recently when he ruled that it was acceptable for Labour's Chris Bryant to call culture secretary Jeremy Hunt a "liar" on the floor of the House.

Bercow said he had discussed that case beforehand with the clerk of the Commons and defended his increased use of urgent questions to call the government to account.


"Much as I have the highest respect for the prime minister… the team captain cannot also be the referee," he said.

"The prime minister's job is to captain his team. My job is to serve as Speaker… and sometimes there can be a difference of opinion on procedural matters. And where I have to make a decision, make a decision I must."

Many on the right of the Conservative party feel betrayed by Bercow's rapid shift towards the centre after his marriage to Sally Bercow, a Labour supporter. He only won the election for Speaker with the help of Labour MPs.

Bercow complained that "some people make a living out of opposition to me" but dismissed their criticisms as "pretty downmarket stuff".

"Have I occasionally lost my rag and got angry? Yes. Is it a mistake to do so? Yes, probably," he admitted.

The Speaker also hit out at sketchwriters – "third-tier scribblers [at] the light entertainment end" - who have accused him of a pompous approach to the job.

"I'm sure their opinions and burblings are of great interest to them… they're just not important," he said.

One article in the Mail newspaper had led to his mother becoming upset at what she thought was "nasty and unfair" coverage, however.

Addressing the right-wing media more generally, he continued: "I'm sometimes a bit exasperated. Basically my feeling is one of disdain and contempt.

"They're trying to debase the currency of debate about parliament and to make it a very, very trivial debate about personalities characterised by abuse. I'm dismissive, really, it's just deeply low-grade."

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