Brendan O’Neill

John Bercow consistently voted for the Iraq war. He’s a colossal hypocrite, not a hero

John Bercow consistently voted for the Iraq war. He's a colossal hypocrite, not a hero
Text settings

The Twitter-cheering for John Bercow, the transformation of him into a Love, Actually-style hero of British middle-class probity against a gruff, migrant-banning Yank, could be the most grotesque political spectacle of the year so far. Not because it’s virtue-signalling, as claimed by the handful of brave critics who’ve raised their heads above the online orgy of brown-nosing to wonder if Bercow is really promoting himself rather than parliamentary decency. No, it’s worse than that. It’s the lowest species of cant, hypocrisy of epic, eye-watering proportions, an effort to erase Bercow’s and Parliament’s own bloody responsibility for the calamities in the Middle East that Trump is now merely responding to, albeit very badly.

Bercow, you see, this supposed hero of the refugees and Middle Eastern migrants temporarily banned from the US, voted for the bombing of Iraq. He green-lighted that horror that did so much to propel the Middle East into the pit of sorrow and savagery it currently finds itself. As his profile on the They Work For You website puts it, ‘John Bercow consistently voted for the Iraq War’. On 18 March 2003, he voted against a motion saying the case for war hadn’t been made, even though it hadn’t. On the same day he voted for the government to ‘use all means necessary’ to ensure the destruction of Iraq’s WMD.

As everyone knows now, and as many of us knew back then, Iraq’s WMD capacity had been vastly exaggerated by the black propaganda of the New Labour government, by myth and misinformation cynically whipped up to the end of providing Britain’s leaders with the thrill of an overseas moral crusade against evil. Bercow voted in favour of these lies. And he voted for the use of ‘all means necessary’ to tame Saddam’s regime. We know what this involved: Britain joined the bombing campaign and courtesy of an ill-thought-through war by Western allies, Iraq was ripped apart and condemned to more than a decade of bloodshed. And refugee crises. Bercow was one of the authors of this calamity, one of the signatories to the Middle East’s death warrant, and now we’re going to let him posture and preen against Trump’s three-month ban on certain Middle Eastern migrants? What is wrong with us?

Bercow isn’t alone. Harriet Harman says she was ‘horrified when [Trump] announced this ban on people from Muslim countries’ and says he shouldn’t be allowed to address parliament. Ms Harman voted for the bombing of Iraq, and Libya, and Syria (they lost that vote). She voted for the military action that contributed to the unravelling of those Muslim countries and to a surge in refugees, and now has the gall to cry crocodile tears over Trump’s treatment of those refugees. Please. Do not insult our moral intelligence.

There’s also Yvette Cooper. She’s raged against Trump’s temporary ban too. She voted for the Iraq War (and against an investigation into it) and she voted for military action in Libya. Just look at Libya now; it is an unspeakable mess; hundreds of thousands of people have fled. Most starkly, most shamelessly, Alastair Campbell has been cheering Bercow for keeping the migrant-mistreating Trump out of our morally pristine parliament. Someone has to say it: Campbell is arguably responsible for more death and destruction in the Muslim world than Trump is ever likely to achieve. His spin cost lives, his spin made refugees. Trump’s misleading statements and rash orders pale into insignificance in comparison with the carnage Campbell helped to unleash.

This is what was truly despicable about Bercow’s anti-Trump posturing and parliamentarians’ cheering of it and the Twitterati’s fawning over it: this very house that doesn’t want Trump to address it, these green benches and the self-satisfied Trump-bashers sat on them, gave the go-ahead to actions that contributed to immense instability in the Muslim world. That media types are lapping this up shows how completely they have retired their critical faculties in the Trump era. In their mind Trump is evil and everyone who hates Trump is good. It’s a new infantile moral code, fashioned by an at-sea political and media set desperate for some sense of clarity in the era of Brexit and political upset. And now they have that clarity: Trump is fascism, anti-Trump is decency. It’s the morality of the nursery, eschewing complexity and analysis and muddying historical truth.

Indeed, it’s becoming clear that Trump-bashing is primarily a means of moral cleansing, of averting the public and historic gaze from your own sins and crimes and confusions by taking part in the Two Minute Hate of this ‘New Hitler’. Just say: ‘I oppose Trump, and therefore I’m good.’ Shame on everyone indulging this spectacle, clapping and tweeting as the politicians who started a decade of war berate a politician for passing a three-month travel ban.