Judging by the reaction on the Tory-dominated Political Betting.com, one might think Arthur Scargill had just been elected Speaker of the House of Commons.
Of course, it’s not quite as bad as that. In defeat, we do all like to reach for the hyperbole, but I think that in time the wounds will heal. While I share a little of the doubt about the imminent prospect of Speaker Bercow, I do believe he will do a much better job than Michael Martin.
The beauty of his election that many people are missing, however, is that Bercow issued a manifesto, and a very detailed one at that. He gave out a laundry-list of pledges which it will be very easy to hold against him. Yes, I know, and I’ve said it already – it’s not down to him to implement them. That’s up to the rest of the Commons to have the bottle to vote for change.
But it does mean he can be held to account. Assuming the Tories will win the next election (a very easy assumption) – they will be able to rate his performance against his words. If he’s doing well, it will be very difficult for them to oust him. If not – they will have a very good argument to say “Look, we tried it – he didn’t deliver”. Because there are some things a Speaker can do right now – like having a go at ministers who announce their policies before Parliament. Including the Prime Minister.
And how John Bercow could easily demonstrate his independence by slapping down the Prime Minister. I wouldn’t put it past him, to be honest. Bercow has the ego to do it. He would enjoy being the centre of attention by taking such an action. It would earn him the necessary brownie points on the Conservative benches that he requires.
OK – he may not do something as big as this. But I’m willing to bet he’ll make some very speedy movement, and some large gestures, to prove he is going to be fair at the job, to prove the doubters wrong.
Maybe his expenses were rather high… and I suspect he’s going to have to go a bit further to justify them. After all, he wants to be more active in the media as Speaker. He is the first Speaker to be elected in the era where nothing less than full transparency will do. He is totally aware of that.
If he doesn’t master that fact, he will die by it.
So, Conservatives… it looks like a win-win situation to me!