Bercow’s (grand) stand
Speaker Bercow recently declared that he wouldn’t allow President Trump to address MPs in Westminster Hall or the Royal Gallery.
The decision came in for widespread criticism, much of it justified.
Firstly, it was a form of grandstanding. Bercow was speaking for his own sake by signalling that he had the approved of views about Donald Trump. (Just count the number of times he says “I”)
Before the imposition of the migrant ban, I would myself have been strongly opposed to an address by Trump in Westminster Hall. After the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump, I am even more strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall… [and] I would not wish to issue an invitation to President Trump to speak in the Royal Gallery…
I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons.
The Speaker should adhere to the principle which William Lenthall expressed in his famous remark to Charles I, when the Speaker told the King that he had ‘neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as this house is pleased to direct me’.
Secondly, Bercow has been happy to welcome worse characters to speak in those rooms from which he has barred Trump. As recently as two years ago, the President of China addressed the Royal Gallery.
If we must know what Bercow feels, why didn’t he share his views on human rights abuses in China?
An “orchestrated” row
What is worse, government sources believe that Bercow may have orchestrated the row for his own ends.
The Telegraph reports that Cabinet ministers believe Bercow intentionally created the row as part of a plot to ensure that he stayed on as Commons Speaker until at least 2020 (two years longer than expected).
Following his intervention, Bercow has the support of numerous MPs from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP who will vote against any motion to oust him.
A regrettable moral
Clearly, the Speaker likes talking about himself – whether it’s sharing his views on Donald Trump or telling students he voted for Britain to remain in the EU.
It’s an unfortunate disposition for someone who occupies his position, for which impartiality and discretion are essential.
But there you go. Apparently it’s more important to express approved of ideas than to respect the wisdom contained in our customs. The Speaker can make himself the centre of attention and get away with it because he says the right kind of things.
When the attempt to oust Bercow fails, his supporters will say that it is victory for tolerance and principle.
The public will draw their own conclusions.