The funniest story of the week was John Bercow announcing in his usual self-aggrandising manner that because he was no longer Speaker of the House of Commons he had no need to remain impartial.
Bercow? Impartial? Surely I am not the only person who snorted tea down my nose at the breakfast table when I read that little gem. Pull the other one, chum! Bercow went onto to reveal the world’s worst kept secret – he was an ardent Remainer all along and thinks Brexit is a bad idea. Honestly, who would ever have guessed? In truth Bercow is a poisonous narcissist who has trampled over our constitution and trashed the reputation of Parliament with his blatant partisanship.
It will take a long time for the House of Commons to regain some trust from the public, but the good news is that the election of a new Speaker – Labour’s Sir Lindsay Hoyle – is a step in the right direction. The contrast between the two men couldn’t be starker – Hoyle’s modest, down to earth pragmatism against Bercow’s tedious exhibitionism and constant need to be the centre of attention.
Take for example the debate on Boris Johnson’s new Brexit deal when Hoyle took the chair. He listened to the advice of the clerks – experts in constitutional law – and then made a ruling on which amendments to accept without fuss or favour.
There was none of Bercow’s orotund verbosity from the chair, no look-at-me grandstanding, and none of the snarling rudeness to MPs he doesn’t like.
Instead with Hoyle we were treated to a refreshing dose of northern good sense as he quietly and efficiently got on with the job.
This comes as no surprise to me as I have a slight personal connection with the MP for Chorley. When he was cutting his teeth as a young Labour councillor in the 1980s I was a cub reporter for the local newspaper and could often be found on the press bench of the council chamber.
At that time he was chiefly known as the son of a more famous father – Labour MP Doug Hoyle – but he quickly made his mark on local politics.
He was a solid working class Labour leftie in a way that seems very old-fashioned today. Local politics can get very heated at times and Chorley was no exception, but I don’t recall Hoyle ever being anything other than respectful to his political opponents.
Certainly, I never witnessed from Hoyle any of the ugly sectarianism and bilious ranting that characterises the Labour left today.
He is very much in the same Labour tradition as another MP in the news this week – the member for Dudley North, Ian Austin, who dropped a bombshell on the election campaign this week when he said Jeremy Corbyn was unfit to be Prime Minister and urged “decent, traditional, patriotic” Labour supporters to vote for Boris Johnson.
Hoyle would never be so indiscrete. He has never even revealed which way he voted in the 2016 EU referendum. But he doesn’t lack courage and he clashed with Tony Blair over Gibraltar and tuition fees when many in the party were fawning over the then Prime Minister. That probably explains why he never held ministerial office before becoming Deputy Speaker almost ten years ago.
Such constancy would seem strange to Bercow who started his political career as a right-wing Conservative with some very salty views before he underwent some bizarre “woke” conversion, and he now trumpets every trendy cause going. His new persona as a social justice warrior didn’t stop him being accused of bullying – allegations which he denies – or being identified in Dame Laura Cox’s report on bullying and sexual harassment in Parliament as being an obstacle to much-needed reform.
With Hoyle in the chair, the chances of dealing with the often-toxic culture of bullying of junior staff in Parliament is much enhanced. In his final appearance in the Commons Bercow typically made it all about himself, lapping up the treacle poured over his head by his more sycophantic supporters.
In contrast Hoyle’s first speech as Speaker was all about other people who have supported him and he made particular mention of his daughter Natalie who died two years ago aged 28 after being involved in a “toxic relationship”. Hoyle is clearly a decent, caring man who is determined to be fair to all sides. Things are looking up already.