Is John Bercow the right man to be Speaker?

John Bercow, the new Speaker of the House of Commons is disliked intenseley by many Conservatives, who accuse him of being a 'turncoat'. So was he voted in just to get on their nerves?

"It was bad enough that Labour couldn't take governing seriously; now it is determined to ensure that parliamentary institutions aren't taken seriously either," says Simon Heffer in The Daily Telegraph on the election for Commons Speaker.

I "couldn't care less" about John Bercow's "bizarre political journey" from "what he thought was ultra-Right to what some of his colleagues think is the ultra-Left", but I do care that he is not "remotely serious" and that 322 MPs thought it "frightfully funny to elect him" because it would annoy the Tories.

By electing him, MPs have given an "insulting V-sign to the British people" and made a "powerful public declaration that they don't value common honesty and decency", says Peter Oborne in the Daily Mail. We needed, and could have had, a figure of "stature and integrity". Instead, we have a "strutting, preening" career politician whose embroilment in the expenses scandal over the 'flipping' of his homes makes his "election to this important post impossible to accept".

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

"I have no idea whether Bercow will be any good at the job", but the Tories' anger at the rise of a moderniser "raises fresh questions about what they would be like if they win the next election", says Steve Richards in The Independent. Bercow is no "raving leftie": he has made a stand on a few limited issues, including his support for gay adoption and the abolition of the anti-gay Section 28.

And it's ludicrous to accuse him of sucking up to Labour MPs for years in a bid to become Speaker. It was only after the expenses scandal forced Michael Martin out that the vacancy arose.

Until then, it seemed almost certain the election for Speaker would take place in the next parliament, when the Tories are expected to be the biggest party.

If the Tories do win, there has been talk of unseating him. But in truth, Bercow would have to be "caught in a Westminster loo with an entire under-age choir to be defrocked", said Michael White in The Guardian. But is he so bad? His election may be an act of "well-poisoning by a retreating army", but it could also, as one leftwinger assured me, be a genuine attempt to tell voters that the government understands their anger and wants to present them with a "reformist, clean-break candidate".

Bercow may live up to the billing, says The Times. He is "young, eloquent, liberal and an avowed moderniser He is obviously superior to his predecessor." Indeed, there is "every chance that Mr Speaker Bercow might be remembered as a great holder of the office". The danger is that he is rather too fond of the sound of his own voice and for all his talk of change, too much of a traditionalist.

Bercow needs to be "impatient with traditions that get between Parliament and the voter", to address the expenses issue, and "deliver on the promise made by all the candidates to hand back power to the legislature from the executive".

He faces no shortage of challenges.

Emily Hohler

Emily has extensive experience in the world of journalism. She has worked on MoneyWeek for more than 20 years as a former assistant editor and writer. Emily has previously worked on titles including The Times as a Deputy Features Editor, Commissioning Editor at The Independent Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, and she spent three years at women's lifestyle magazine Marie Claire as a features writer for three years, early on in her career. 

On MoneyWeek, Emily’s coverage includes Brexit and global markets such as Russia and China. Aside from her writing, Emily is a Nutritional Therapist and she runs her own business called Root Branch Nutrition in Oxfordshire, where she offers consultations and workshops on nutrition and health.