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12 June 2009updated 05 Oct 2023 8:50am

Still the mad parliament?

The 'magisterial' John Bercow, Betty Boothroyd's sharp tongue and why Venezuela has banned Coke Zero

By Paul Evans

Field day

The first identifiable speaker of the House, Peter de Montfort, presided over what became known as the “mad parliament”. He was slain in battle, a casualty of the violence that made order in 13th century England.

Less noble, if no less intriguing, the race to succeed the toppled Speaker Martin has exercised citizen journalists this week. Among the most under-rated blogging MPs, Newport West’s Paul Flynn gives a terrific guide to the runners and riders – lauding John Bercow as a “witty star performer”. Regulars in Westminster boozer the Cardinal will be familiar with the sight of Bercow holding court and agree that he can indeed command a rabble magisterially. Grassroots Tories weren’t as keen as Flynn though, one writing: “…he is hated by Conservatives, (despite him getting Labour support), he will… fall at the first hurdle.

Meanwhile Liberal Democrat Stephen Tall revealed that his cadres favoured voice of the Labour right Frank Field for the post, over their own veteran knights, Sir Ming and Sir Alan Beith.

Logic was the order of the day on Iain Dale’s Diary, where the likelihood of Campbell or Beith proceeding was dismissed outright, on the grounds that:

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“Logic further tells me that Labour MPs in particular are unlikely to support a LibDem. They seem to hate the LibDems more than they hate Tories, especially as the more tribal ones blame the LibDems for the overthrow of Michael Martin.”

Dale’s clinical reasoning led him to tip Sir Alan Haselhurst, with the hefty caveat that: “…logic actually plays little role in electoral reality. All of which goes to show that, frankly, the whole race is up for grabs”.

Over at the FT Westminster Blog the consequences of Frank Field’s recent broadside at the prime minister this week were examined.

“Before this intervention Field was concentrating on his campaign to be Speaker and was keeping his distance from the mutiny, at least in public,” Alex Barker noted, adding that: “Field has put the need to oust Brown ahead of his own career”.

A couple of weeks ago the right-wingers over at the Adam Smith Institute had predicted: “The next speaker will almost certainly be an older stalwart of Parliament who can control and command the respect of all”.

Yet, with fresh faces like Parmjit Dhanda in the mix and an appetite for radical shake-up – even the clever punters at Political Betting would be advised to place their bets with caution. It is, after all, a mad parliament.

What have we learned this week?

As Britain reflects on the election of a brace of far-right (or as Tim Montgotmerie would have it, “ultra-nationalist”) MEPs, Harry’s Place reports that the murderer who opened fire at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC was a “friend” of the British National Party.

Around the World

Down in Venezuela The Devil’s Excrement noted Chavez’s weird descent into arbitrary totalitarianism. Try to get a Coke Zero in Caracas now. You can’t, because: “As of right now that product is banned without telling us what is that mysterious component that may damage our brain, or sex life, or skin”.

A self-confessed fan of Coke, he was considerably affronted by Hugo’s decision, commenting: “That is the true parody our poor country is living today. There is little that is good. A lot that is bad. Many things that are ugly, but the Government is worried about Coca Cola Zero!”

Videos of the Week

Mistry water-coloured memories; relive Betty Boothroyd keeping the House in order and giving Dale (now Baron) Campbell-Savours a dressing down. Magnificent.

Quote of the Week

“The notion, that has been popular, that left-wing Tory, John Bercow, might attract Labour backing never really sounded feasible. It’s got to be a senior figure in the house.”

Mike Smithson fancies Margaret Beckett

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