HAPPY ANNIVERSARY MR SPEAKER!
Yesterday marked the second anniversary John Bercow’s election as Speaker of the House of Commons, an event which, as Mrs Bercow revealed on Twitter, prompted their children into buying their father an ‘I am 2’ badge.
Sadly, he didn’t appear to be wearing it during yesterday’s to-ings and fro-ings in the House. But perhaps it was hidden beneath his Speaker’s robes.
What has never been hidden are Mr Bercow’s oratorical skills- which I recently experienced first hand and up close at a House of Commons dinner. His speech was rousing and full of rhetorical flourishes which got me to thinking about what an exciting, and not a little controversial, two years it’s been.
Publically criticising David Cameron’s ‘privileged background’ put an end to any party political ambitions. But the ousting of Speaker Martin was to be his get out of jail free card. As was the new exhaustive secret ballot system which meant that he was able to go after Labour votes to back his bid and which didn’t help endear him any further to his Conservative colleagues. Indeed, he is unique as one of the first speakers to have taken office without the approval of both whips. And despite the neutrality of the Speakers position he has developed a reputation for antagonising the parties, particularly his own. Who can forget his conflict with Patrick McLoughlin last December?
My view is that he has made some admirable reforms to the House. At the dinner he talked passionately about his mission to make the institution much more accessible to the public. He launched the Speaker’s Parliamentary Placements scheme – a paid internship scheme – which has cross party support and which will open up Parliamentary internships to people from all walks of life who have always wanted to work in politics.
And he has introduced laudable changes to Parliamentary Procedure – including allowing more urgent questions than any other speaker. In 2007-2008, there were an average of just four a year – under Speaker Bercow there have been more than one a week, making the House far more topical, and ensuring that Ministers are held accountable.
Not bad for a man who once said “just because I’m a little chap it doesn’t mean I haven’t got a big ambition”. He’s shown that time and again. More power to your elbow Mr Speaker and Happy Anniversary.