Politics.co.uk Blog

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Two Commons subplots: John Bercow and David Miliband

What with the extremely busy - and important - Commons agenda this afternoon, I wasn't able to sneak in a couple of subplots which would usually have found their way into my PMQs sketch.

It would of course be a travesty for the world to continue without these interesting morsels being shared. So, here they are.

Number one: the Speaker taking it easy.

Last week John Bercow launched his strongest attack on the prime minister. He interrupted him in full flow as he wound up to polish off Ed Miliband, simply because he thought he was going on too long. Later in the session he noted that PMQs is "principally for backbenchers".

This sort of manoeuvring is not without consequences. Tory MP Rob Wilson has laid into Bercow in an article in the Telegraph which we've reported on, calling Bercow "bombastic" and "divisive". Worse still, the PM has consigned the Speaker to semi-regular exile in Afghanistan, in an exchange of parliamentary Speakers.

This week Bercow kept himself to himself a bit more. His first intervention came against Cameron, to be sure, but it was in support of the PM, not against him. "I apologise for interrupting the prime minister," he said sorrowfully.

The Speaker may have been acting under the influence of his wife, Sally, who was sitting in the gallery above the government benches. They hate her because of her ambitions to be a Labour politician - and the influence she has had on her husband's own, now officially irrelevant, political opinions. It was striking how firmly she nodded whenever Ed Miliband made a point. And how much she smiled whenever the Speaker spoke.

Number two: the soap opera, still simmering away.

Most MPs run for cover when PMQs are finished, it being lunchtime. Not David Miliband, the former foreign secretary. He was seen slinking into the chamber against the tide to hear David Cameron's statement on troop withdrawals in Afghanistan. Apart from an odd penchant to stroking his red tie, there was nothing really remarkable about this reappearance. But it was striking to see how he silently gazed upon his vanquisher, and younger brother, Ed Miliband nod at Cameron's statement.

He was sitting next to Jack Straw, another has-been veteran of the Tony Blair years. When the text of Cameron's statement was passed along, Straw instantly began poring over the document making annotations hither and thither. Miliband, on receiving his, instantly chucked it disdainfully into the shelf in front of him - and started gazing around him, especially up at the press gallery.

There is something about him - a restless energy, perhaps? - which makes me certain he will return to frontbench politics before the next general election. The elder Miliband is surely biding his time, even if he looks rather bored doing so.

No comments:

Post a Comment