The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Bercow: So Far, So Good

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 29, 2009 @ 17:12

The Man in full flow.

The Man in full flow.

Having just watched the Prime Minister’s statement entitled Building Britain’s Future (which should, of course, read “Building England’s Future”), I’ve got to say it was a total bore. There was nothing genuinely new, either because a) it’s existing policy (e.g. 18 week maximum for NHS treatment); b) it had been pre-announced (job/training offers for youth unemployment); or c) it was just another chapter in a long running saga (e.g. Lords reforms, social housing).

So instead, I decided to pay close attention to the tedium of House of Commons procedure. And, I’ve got to say, I’m beginning to feel Speaker Bercow is steadily getting on with the job and delivering what’s needed.

First off – he told the backbenchers that he had 36 people waiting to speak – and so asked for brief questions and equally brief responses from the frontbench.

Overall, that is exactly what happened. The questions were much shorter than previous statements, and though Brown did his best to give a verbose answer, they were of a reasonable length. Only once or twice did Bercow stop the questioner for taking a little too long or trying to ask too many questions.

In the end, I counted they got through a total of 41 questions. Indeed, they got through so many that the Labour benchest actually ran of questions to ask, causing a brief cheer from the Opposition benches when two members from that side of the chamber were chosen in succession. In truth, it’s a disgrace that Labour MPs, who outnumber everyone by a long way, could run out of things to talk about. Clearly the whips hadn’t handed out sufficient questions; but they will soon fix that as they realise they need to prepare more for the new Speaker.

But it was even better than that. The final question was actually the very last one members wanted to ask, as there were no more MPs trying to get the Speaker’s attention. Bercow even noted at the end that he was very pleased that everyone was called; that’s either a sign of efficiency on the part of all MPs (and even Gordon Brown for replying quickly enough), or it’s yet another terrible reflection that, really, MPs just aren’t bothered even asking questions of the country’s Prime Minister.

There are still very many things that need changing. I think the Privy Councillors still get precedence. And I wish that MPs could talk to each other, rather than this nonsense of addressing them via the Chair. Minor changes like that would help make the proceedings more understandable. Maybe we’ll get there in time, along with the more radical reforms like seeing the Commons back in control of its own business.

But for now – the man’s got off to a decent start, and he even made a rather tantalising promise to look at the issue of Parliamentary questions.

Why does any of this matter to the average person? Well – maybe if we could hold the government to account a bit better, we wouldn’t be the kind of economic and political mess we’re in in the first place.

UPDATE 30/06/09: Bercow did just as well during today’s statement from Ed Balls – he managed to get all MPs in, and he even laid the smackdown on Ed Balls for constantly bringing all points raised back to the Tory policy on inheritance tax. It’s all good…


One Response to “Bercow: So Far, So Good”

  1. 16sd said

    So far so good, but people will start asking where his presentations for reform after the summer recess and into next year.

    My website:

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