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« Happy days | Main | Too much information, Nadine »

John Bercow: in his own words

One of the favourites to succeed Michael Martin as Speaker of the House of Commons is John Bercow. Bercow would be a controversial choice because he is not universally liked by his Conservative colleagues who are suspicious of his conversion from rabble-rousing Right winger to Blair-lite reformer. Many Labour MPs, however, appear willing to support him just to annoy the Tories.

In September 2001 Bercow had just been promoted to shadow chief secretary to the Treasury when I interviewed him for the Freedom Association magazine Freedom Today. Here are some quotes that may interest friend and foe alike:

On Europe ...
"I have always maintained that the European Parliament should not be given more powers and that the European Commission already has too many."

On Parliament ...
"It's a great institution. Every day I have a glint in my eye and a spring in my step. I simply cannot understand how people can be elected to the British Parliament and then denude it of its powers."

On New Labour ...
"The saccharine smugness of Blair and his cronies will antagonise millions of voters who want to see results and not be force-fed on a diet of spin and statistics."

On Labour's economic record ...
"They inherited an extremely good economic legacy. They didn't squander it but there are a lot of problems brewing. Growth is not assured and they will eventually pay the price for over-regulating business, especially small businesses. The chickens will in due course come home to roost."

On Michael Martin ...
"I ... [long pause] ... simply did not think that Michael Martin was of a calibre to be elected Speaker of the House of Commons. I voted accordingly. We must make the best of the circumstances. He has every right to occupy the chair becaue he won the election but there is a difference between respecting the office and esteeming its occupant."

On Conservative MPs ...
"I know of some Conservatives who think it's slightly indecent to get up and ask a question. To get up and ask a hostile question is well and truly beneath their dignity."

On John Bercow ...
"I'm naturally awkward, disputatious, troublesome, unwilling to accept something just because it is imposed upon me ... I have, I know, a rather aggressive debating style, never knowingly understated ... I try not to be rude but I do argue in a very forceful and rumbustious fashion."

And finally ...
"I'm not that ambitious. Of course I want to make a good contribution but I'm not going to sell my soul. My natural desire to speak my mind will be my downfall."

PS. John Bercow is often described as a "social liberal". In my 2001 interview he said of the Conservative party: "Unless we show that we respect the interests of women, ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, and and the experiences of millions of young people, we cannot expect them to listen to us on other matters."

In 2006, ignoring the interests of another sizeable minority, he voted "enthusiastically" for a complete ban on smoking in public places. See HERE.

See also: John Bercow says he is ready for the Speaker's role (Guardian, 20 May 2009) and John Bercow to repay £6,500 capital gains tax (Daily Telegraph, 23 May 2009)

Reader Comments (6)

Just when you think things couldn't get any worse :(

May 24, 2009 at 19:32 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

The race to the bottom continues.

May 25, 2009 at 9:11 | Unregistered Commenterann

hes actually a bit of a tosser aint he?

May 26, 2009 at 1:17 | Unregistered Commentermutley

Can't see much controversial there - except the ban on smoking.

May 26, 2009 at 2:12 | Unregistered CommenterPol-e-tics

An anti smoking zealot with a blue rinse ?

May 26, 2009 at 22:19 | Unregistered CommenterSpecky

There is a discussion on Labourlist about the reason for Pubs closing

May 26, 2009 at 23:01 | Unregistered CommenterJim

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