It's been a tough week for poor John Bercow. The release of the report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards into his Speakership on Tuesday saw 21 counts of bullying being upheld against him. Since then there have been calls for universities to strip him of his academic posts, while Commons bosses have delivered the ultimate insult: removing his name from the parliamentary gym spin room. Talk about purging the last remnants of a hated former regime.
And Steerpike can reveal that Bercow has also now quit as a trustee of Holland Park school, known as 'the socialist Eton'. His term was due to end in November 2024. A spokesperson for the school told Mr S that 'his work with the school has always focused on making sure that the school is moving forward positively and that our students have the best possible education and experience.'
Still, Bercow can one find glimmer of solace. For acclaim, recognition and quasi-rehabilitation has now come from an unlikely source: online-obsessed Chinese millennials. Bercow, who records personalised messages on video site Cameo for £83-a-pop, has gone viral over there thanks to a clip he recorded for a popular 'virtual idol.' These are currently all the rage in China, where celebrity culture is facing a clampdown thanks to the unhelpful habit of real-life stars like Peng Shuai to speak out against the regime.
Now Bercow's paid birthday message for Chinese virtual idol Jiaran has proved something of an online sensation. The 92-second video clip, in which Bercow sang 'happy birthday' to the, er, fictitious creature, has been watched nearly 3.9 million times on Bilibili, Jiaran’s main platform. Mr S has captured it for posterity below. For some reason, few active politicians in the UK have been willing to follow Bercow's example onto Cameo, though DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr. does seem to have an inactive page on there.
Given the propensity of his own former staff to speak out, perhaps the concept of 'virtual idols' is something that appeals to the former Speaker.