Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Speaker

Any Wednesday, 12.15pm, PMQs:
Speaker: "Order, order. Prime Minister, I have already warned you about this. You must answer the questions. This is not called Prime Minister`s Questions for nothing; it is not an opportunity for you to a) ask your own questions to the Leader of the Opposition;
b) treat the session as a party political broadcast;
c) encourage schoolboy behaviour from your backbenchers".
    Of course, this is what should happen, and instead of complaining about the disgraceful behaviour of individual MPs, the Speaker should remove them from the chamber; behaviour would soon improve.
The reality is far removed from this, and the fact is the electorate is badly served by the present incumbent of the Speaker`s chair.
Let`s consider some other salient points.
        The Speaker`s disgraceful disregard for Parliament`s reputation, and the huge hypocrisy he has shown by lecturing on the need for parliament "to ensure it is a credible institution", beggar belief. It would be interesting to discover how many afternoons he spent watching the tennis during Wimbledon fortnight last year, for he was certainly not presiding over the Budget proceedings, nor on the debate the following day, when he was photographed at the tennis, sitting behind fellow MP John Whittingdale. The Daily Mail reported that Bercow "enjoyed more than £6000-worth of free tennis" last summer (02/10/15). I am sure Bercow`s constituents in Buckingham will be interested in such details about their MP`s work output just weeks before his massively long summer break, not to mention the announcement of a significant pay rise. Delegating your work to a deputy so that you can spend the afternoon at one of the world`s premier sporting events sounds like the action of a sciver to me!
       Then there is the small matter of pay! According to the Commons website, Bercow`s salary is bigger than the prime minister`s, now reaching £150,236, having recently accepted an additional 0.62% increase for his official role, and with another £1000 MPs` pay rise in the offing,. He also enjoys an official residence, Speaker`s House, in the northeast corner of the Palace of Westminster, with private accommodation in a four-bedroom apartment upstairs! Plus, of course, the well-documented taxpayer-funded apartment for his children`s nanny!
     During the MPs` expenses scandal, Bercow re-paid £6500 when it was discovered he had failed to pay Capital Gains tax on the sale of two properties in 2003, but of course, he put all this aside when elected as Speaker.
He promised to "implement an agenda for reform, for renewal, for revitalisation", and to re-assert "the core values of this great institution", but it didn`t quite work out like that. He`s had an expenses scandal all to himself. Already this year Bercow has been in the news for all the usual reasons. He has spent thousands of pounds of public money, it has been revealed, on wining and dining fellow MPs, including around £2000 on a leaving dinner for his former deputy, £3000 on an event for newly elected MPs, and £1700 on a reception for retiring MPs. One meal with the Australian Speaker in May 2014 cost £1,954. Let us not forget who is paying the bill for all of this.
      Then there`s the small matter of travel! Following on from the £96000 claimed between 2010 and 2013, our much revered Speaker claimed more than £31000 in travel and accommodation expenses between April 2014 and April 2015 : these included such arduous trips as the 0.7 mile trip to Carlton House from Parliament, for which he claimed £172, and the journey  from his house to King`s Cross station, which cost the taxpayer £168. Best of all, perhaps, is the £367 claimed for being driven to the University of Bedfordshire to deliver a lecture on..... you`ve guessed already, the reform of Parliament, to ensure it remains a "credible institution". Bercow`s spokesman even said, "The Speaker is committed to cutting costs wherever possible". You could not make it up! Talk about taking us for mugs! 
     With his being so unpopular with many fellow Tories, you would think they would get rid of such an embarrassment, but....
 There were accusations that he presided over a cover-up of MPs` expenses, after tens of thousands of pieces of paperwork relating to claims made before 2010 were shredded. No further investigations without evidence! Fancy that!
   Maybe the MPs` friend can do what he likes in Parliament, but, as far as we are concerned, he must be viewed as a disgrace. Elected to preside over a clean-up of Parliament, after the biggest scandal in years, Bercow has done nothing of the sort; in fact, he has added to the widespread distrust we all have of the majority of our politicians.
    And we are still asked why Corbyn stands out , and is so popular! Look at the Speaker`s record , and the answer is obvious.

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