Saturday, June 27, 2009

Maybe the Tories should start paying attention

This is probably a lost cause but I cannot help advocating that the Tories, if they really do want to be known as a reasonable party rather than the Anything But Gordon Brigade, should pay attention to what is going on.

For instance, they seem to have got themselves into a real pickle over the new Spaker of the House, John Bercow, who has announced that he was pleased to be leaving the Conservative Party (as he has to, according to the rules). Shriek, howl, gurgle! Well, I'd be pleased to leave that snake pit (apologies to snakes) if I had ever bothered to join them.

While we are on the subject, I do find it just a little puzzling that people who have assured me and everyone else with foam on their lips that the real problem with modern politics is the Whip system and the obedience with which MPs accept the party's ruling are now the very ones to turn on Mr Bercow for rebelling against the party. Which is it we want? People who think for themselves, even if we do not agree with them or loyal party members?

The new Speaker's first pronouncement was perfectly sensible and well within the parameters of his job. Ministers, he said, must announce new policies to the House not the media. Who can disagree with that? The Ministers and their civil servants, that's who.

As Toby Helm, erstwhile Brusssels correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, who has now gone to the Observer writes gloatingly in his blog:
So what do ministers do? How do they react to the Bercow edict in this new era of honest politics?

Well, they just carry on as before.

Ahead of a spurt of announcements this week, Whitehall seems to be leaking even more furiously than before Bercow's installation.

Senior ministers show no fear of the Tory they cynically planted in the job to annoy the Conservatives.
That business of Labour putting him there to spite the Conservatives is a media mantra, repeated by Tory bloggers and it may be true. Or maybe not. The Conservative leadership appears to believe it and is threatening to get rid of the Speaker when they are in government (most definitely not in power). Way to go if you want to make the House of Commons important, Mr Cameron and sundry members of the claque.

One can understand why one of the despised media fraternity should be gloating about such behaviour by Ministers, not that anyone is paying the slightest attention to announcements of new policies or new spending allocations or whatever since these announcements have long ago parted company with any semblance of truth.

Should the Conservatives not pay attention to the whole problem, though? We hear much about Parliament losing its importance and whatever respect the electorate may have for the Commons. Restoring ministerial pronouncements to where they belong is not quite restoring legislative powers but it is a small step in the right direction.

Somehow, I do not expect the Conservative front benches to make much of it. Presumably, they are looking forward to a time when they can announce some lie or other a new policy on the Today programme. And, of course, they do not like Mr Bercow. Nothing else could possible matter.


  1. As Frank Fields said, the speaker should be respected on both sides of the house. Brecow commands little respect from the opposition side. BUT he has the important advantage of not being Mr Martin and he has a year to prove himself. So we shall see.

  2. I have not been impressed with him as my constituency MP. Although he may have been paying his subs to the "Conservative" party until recently, he stopped being the conservative that his electors wanted him to be a very long time before.

    While he has changed his core political beliefs to suit the prevailing political fashion, there is no doubt about the one constant thing in his life: Bercow believes in Bercow.