Bercow’s Burmese daze

New Statesman
Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow. Photograph: Getty Images.

The stuffed shirts are grumbling over the prospect of the saintly Aung San Suu Kyi following in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Her Maj and the Pope. Speaker Bercow wishes to invite the world’s poster girl for democracy, I hear, to address both Houses of Parliament when the newly elected member of the Burmese legislature visits Britain. The trip could be as early as June if David Cameron’s overture is accepted. William Hague is happy, say the Foreign Secretary’s lot.

But the stick-in-the-mud mob moans about convention. Tradition dictates that only premiers, presidents and heads of state should enjoy the honour of speaking to massed ranks of MPs and peers in Westminster Hall. The redoubtable Suu Kyi would have led her country for two decades had the generals not cancelled elections and kept her locked in a Rangoon bungalow. As plain John Bercow MP, the Commons Speaker was chair of the all-party parliamentary group for democracy in Burma. I predict that it’ll be standing room only for the Nobel Prize-winning symbol of peaceful resistance.

Ecce homo qui est faba*: Chuka Umunna enjoyed minor fame before the opposition frontbencher’s name became regularly prefixed with “Labour rising star”. Your correspondent has discovered that the super-smooth shadow business secretary sang the theme tune for the Mr Bean TV series. Young Chuka and the Southwark Cathedral choir met Rowan Atkinson, who played the childlike misfit. The perfect audition for life on the green benches of the Mock-Gothic Fun House.

Ed Miliband’s proposed cap on political donations, including bundles of used notes from union barons, was meekly received by the bruvvers and sisters. That’s because Ted took the precaution of personally ringing round the comrades before his appearance on Andrew Marr’s telly show.

The Labour leader learned the lesson of springing on general secretaries his embrace of the Con-Dem public-sector wage freeze – that surprise earned him an unsurprising degree of hostility from his former backers. Miliband’s motto should be: “Consult and survive!”

The peer’s son Ed Vaizey, Tory MP for Wantage and culture vulture in Cameron’s farce of a government, doesn’t hang a toy sword from his pink ribbon for leaving a weapon in the members’ cloakroom. Dangling below Eddie Vague’s coat peg was a large Chelsea flag. An old boy sniffed that the minister’s football banner made a plastic rapier appear dignified.

The prickliness of the chain-smoking health minister Simon Burns has earned the puffer an unflattering sobriquet among his staff. He spluttered into Oxford University courtesy of a private education and departed with a lowly Third-class degree in modern history. Which is why, out of earshot, underlings call their unhealthy minister “Third-Degree Burns”.

* “Behold the man who is a bean” in Latin

Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror