” ‘Invited in’ by the Chief Whip to witness John Bercow threatened with having the whip withdrawn. In the event he surrenders and agrees to apologise for being publicly rude about the party…and also to declare that he will ‘never’ cross the floor of the House.” (Michael Spicer’s Diaries: November 2 2004.)
The former Speaker has been Labour at heart for the best part of 20 years. So the only mystery about his news is that it hasn’t happened before. Never mind the football: Bercow’s coming home!
The conventional view is that he is greasing the path to a peerage, but it’s difficult to see how such a ploy would work. Keir Starmer will have a long list of names for the Lords already…even if few have given such stalwart service to the party.
Nor is the Labour leader in a position, were the House of Lords Appointments Commission to object to Bercow – which it would – to “do a Cruddas”: that’s to say, force the nomination through.
Not until or unless he becomes Prime Minister. And by the next election, at least one report on historic bullying should have been published: Dame Laura Cox is on the case (as is the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme).
There is a sense, to borrow the kind of classical analogy that he might deploy, of Orestes pursuit by the Furies. Though it’s important to add that the former Speaker denies the allegations: he “yields to no-one” in his condemnation of bullying, as he himself would put it.
But if the high road to the Lords is blocked, could he be eyeing the low road to the Commons? You may ask why a former Speaker would descend to the backbenches – and have a point in doing so.
Our answer is that Bercow scarcely lives without a stage to perform upon. And nothing seems to validate his existence as much as winding up the Tories.
He will once have wanted to be Prime Minister. Could that ambition be stirring in its unquiet grave? The idea sounds eccentric. Indeed, it is eccentric. But since when has eccentricity been an insuperable bar to political action – in the former Speaker or in anyone else?
One thing’s for sure: Labour’s processes, and a selection committee of activists who don’t know Bercow, would be a great deal easier to impress than the Lords, and a mass of his former colleagues who do.