And so John Bercow has been elected as the next Speaker of the House of Commons, beating fellow Conservative Sir George Young by a margin of 322-271.
It is one of the worst kept secrets in politics that Bercow has long desired to be the Speaker. As early as 2005, there were rumours of him cosying up to Labour MPs - safe in the knowledge that with enough Labour votes he could frustrate the Conservatives as much as he liked. Watching him nodding along to Tony Blair in the Commons was just one of many attempts to get in Labour's good books, as were the cards and supportive letters known to have been sent. And all this was done while simultaneously speaking out against the line of his own party, and sitting on the biggest Conservative majority in the country.
And this is why he was elected today. Talk of him being a reformer comes only from his words and not his actions, and is also based largely on his age and various phantom reasons Labour MPs have created in order to justify voting for him. Bercow was elected today because Labour MPs wanted to stick it to the Tories - to give them one of their own as Speaker, but also the one they wanted least. Do not let any journalist or Labour MP get away with the lie that this was Labour putting aside party politics; this was party politics at its most gruesome and petty.
However, this does not mean Bercow cannot be a good Speaker. In his speech of thanks he made a promise to be impartial, and has already warmed up the language of reform. In fact, he may well prove to be an excellent Speaker, and genuinely capable of being nonpartisan, professional and respected. But those things are part of a reputation he now has to earn; they are not perks that come automatically with the position. He takes the role in the knowledge that he has been used as a political stick with which to beat his own party, and in more ways than one he is responsible for that. But with his election now confirmed, the fact is that Bercow now has to do the job to his utmost and make the reasons for his election an irrelevance. Because if he doesn't, his election will just be another sad episode in this current series of Parliamentary tragedies.
Opinium/Observer – CON 40, LAB 43, LDEM 6
1 hour ago