In the foreplay preceding the election of the new Speaker I had a conversation with a friend regarding the significance and power of this position. He was of the opinion that this was a token form of appointment, a non-job almost, surely this was just the referee for boxing match and not one of the combatants.
I had to take him to one side and soundly box his ears with a copy of Erskine May. Of course, in an ideal world he would not be someone of note, merely a neutral, someone to call break, to ensure no blows were landed below the belt, someone who would correctly carry out the count, in the event of a knockdown, without prejudice.
This notion of fair play and impartiality is indeed an essential in any arena that requires an umpire, the problem was that John Simon Berkowitz took it upon himself to be the main event, he was not the referee, he was the star attraction. He became Floyd Mayweather when he was only supposed to be Mills Lane.
From his look-at-me ties, the colour of a direct hit on a paint factory, I’m a bit of a character, just look at my tie, to his exaggerated theatrical ‘Order Orderrr’ catch phrase, like a pastiche Vaudeville entertainer, the House of Commons somehow became the Berkowitz show.
The little man played to the cameras, he would lecture, he would belittle but most of all he would just talk, oh, how he would talk, he would be the centre of attraction, he would sound worldly and erudite, he would debate the origin and essence of words, even with the Moggster, oh, how he would talk.
Look at my tie, listen to my catch phrase, hear my words, see me, feel me, touch me, like some horrific Thomas Harris Red Dragon creation he was evolving, he was ‘becoming’. Now a fully formed serial egoist brazenly flaunting the customs and principles of parliament, somehow believing that he was invincible and untouchable. He wore his little man cloak of power like a six year old wears his Superman cape and I wouldn’t be surprised to know that he even slept in it.
Now I’ve been around folk like this most of my adult life and I pay them little heed, I recognise their need but I don’t fully understand it, they are by no means stupid people yet there is something, a reckless desire, that drives them to be seen as special or unique. In itself, it is of little consequence, except when they are placed in positions of high authority and that’s when it becomes a major problem.
With authority comes great responsibility, when one is appointed to arbitrate in parliament, to be its umpire, it is time to put aside childish things, to take off the Superman cloak and to follow proper procedure. John Simon Berkowitz cared little for such process, he crossed that line.
When he started to favour one side because of his own prejudice, he crossed that line. When he pronounced that he had tricks up his sleeve to defeat the will of government, he crossed that line. Whilst he was the hero of the remain camp for his devotion to their cause, in truth, when the cock crowed, they all denied him.
Every single one of the seven new candidates for Speaker said their aim now was to unite the house, each one implied their job is not to be seen or heard other than for points of order, each one clearly stated they should talk less and allow the house to do its job, each one refuted his legacy, some even mentioned bullying without reference to the previous incumbent. It was all very polite as one would expect but the very clear message was, I won’t be like John.
I’m pleased with the appointment of Sir Lindsay Hoyle, I do wonder if Brexit might have been further along the road had he been in the chair. He will certainly be a steady pair of hands, a man with a sensible tie who will speak only when he needs to. A down to earth, old school speaker who, I guarantee, does not have a Bollocks to Brexit sticker in his wife’s car.
Only time will tell how much damage has been wreaked on the House and its reputation by the last Speaker, as we know parliament itself is also far from blameless for that, but I’m hopeful that with an honourable, impartial referee in the ring we may actually see a fair and decent contest without even being aware of the referee. It has been a very long wait.
© Viciousbutfair 2019
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file