What’s John Bercow up to these days? The ex-Speaker is enjoying the limelight, of course, but he isn’t necessarily cashing in. Last Friday, he did a solo gig at a community centre in Holland Park where his appearance raised thousands of pounds for a local charity. He charged no fee. And he spent time before and after his speech chatting happily to anyone who approached him. But then Bercow has always liked to talk. His parents, who noticed their son’s verbosity, said:
‘John, generally speaking, is generally speaking.’
He made this joke against himself during his hour-long speech. It wasn’t his only essay in self-mockery:
‘We may be short,’ he said, on behalf of smaller people everywhere, ‘but we’re environmentally friendly. We take up less space.’
He denied that he was the shortest Speaker in Commons history and he named three of his predecessors, from medieval times, whose stature was less than his own, ‘although that was after they’d been beheaded.’
He was very keen to revisit the battles of his ten-year Speakership. His reflections were sometimes witty, sometimes merely vituperative.
He couldn’t bring himself to name the parliamentary sketch-writer, Quentin Letts, who christened him ‘Mr Squeaker.’ Instead he referred to, ‘a downmarket, fifth-rate scribbler on the “Daily Fail”…which breaches the trades descriptions act by calling itself a newspaper’.
Of his predecessor, Betty Boothroyd, he said, ‘She frequently offered me advice – sometimes even when I’d asked for it.’
His experiences with the Tory whips still nettle him. ‘Our relationship was based on understanding and trust. I didn’t trust them and they didn’t understand me.’
He singled out two in particular. Andrew Lansley, he said, was, ‘not noted for a surplus of imaginative qualities.’
And Julian Smith once got into a heated dispute with him that prompted Smith to thump the table in the Speaker’s office.
‘I told him.