Bercow to go without peerage; unfair on Bercow but an unfair system – Liberal Article
John Bercow, the former speaker, said he was ‘sorry’ when it was announced this week that he would not receive his peerage. While unfortunate and an obvious backhanded decision towards him by the PM, the convention that former MPs simply walk into the House of Lords is wrong and outdated.
In recent years, we are seeing a growing trend in former MPs who lost their constituency moving to the Lords. This revolving door treatment is troubling. In the US, you become a lobbyist; in the UK you become a Lord.
On a larger scale, former MPs moving to the Lords is not the biggest injustice. For example, there are still 26 bishops who are in the House of Lords. At least MPs were formally elected.
However, I still think it wrong that becoming a Lord is so easy for MPs. Why are we continuing to hand out positions to an already clogged house? While there were plans to reduce the Lords to 600, there are still 780 sitting members. Even the Lord’s speaker has regularly addressed this issue.
But don’t think Johnson has decided to fix the problem. This was obviously an attempt to undermine Bercow. The PM already received criticism this year for making ‘Nicky Morgan and Zac Goldsmith [peers so they could] continue serv[ing] as Culture Secretary and Environment minister respectively.’
While in coming days we will discuss what needs to happen to change the Lords, I want to focus on Bercow today. There seems to be a lot of debate around the man. Is he as bad or as good as is said? Obviously, the House of Lords needs reform. I am happy that Bercow will not be another MP simply walking into the Lords. Yet, it does seem unfair that this starts with him.
Firstly, he is an Arsenal fan. As a fellow Arsenal fan, my criticism can only go so far, especially after the fantastic interview on Arsenal Fan TV.
That doesn’t mean I can’t note some flaws. Accusations around him bullying staff is worrying. Those claims are problematic for a political world attempting to change its ‘Malcolm Tucker’ image.
But to call him ‘the most biased speaker ever’ is, well, a bit harsh. I think announcing that he voted ‘remain’ didn’t help his position. I also suspect he thrives by annoying the Brexiters. During Bercow’s time, the Conservatives held the tiniest minority. Therefore, for Bercow to make a difference was easy; just ask the European Research Group. I shall also point out that the European Research Group are just an anti-EU conservative caucus. They are not a proper ‘research group’.
That is perhaps why Brexiters put unfair blame at Bercow’s feet; he could easily affect parliamentary decisions. But the reason for Brexit deals failing to be passed his fault, it was due to MPs rightly voicing their opinions and blocking the bill. Bercow simply gave MPs the platform to do this. Parliament was owned by Remainers, not the government. At the time, giving them power was completely reasonable, even if he did take advantage of the situation.
So, does Bercow deserve peerage? Well, he has been one of the most popular speakers in parliament’s history, admired nationally and internationally. As mentioned at the start, I do think MPs becoming Lords should stop. It is just a shame it started with Bercow, and not with other less worthy candidates.
Written by Liberal writer, Max Anderson
Point of Information
A wise move from the Government – a Conservative response
This article makes perfect sense. Usually, I’d argue that if there is a conventional system of peerage for ex-speakers, then this should be upheld without exceptions. No matter how flawed this system may seem, it should be fair. Some may argue that holding Mr Bercow to different rules because of political reasons, or for personal dislike, is unfair.
But Mr Bercow has broken conventions and traditions himself. He has also faced numerous allegations of “bullying”. As my liberal colleague correctly states this is very worrying! He, therefore, cannot expect to be treated the same way.
By tradition, the speaker is “above politics”, only representing Parliament’s rules and conventions. Once elected the speaker no longer represents any political party. So, we can’t expect government to admit anyone into peerage before their political career is cleaned of any possible controversy. The government has made a wise move, we don’t need another governmental scandal!
Once these allegations have been properly investigated, I see no reason for Mr Bercow not receiving a peerage. It continues years of tradition and is only fair. Yes, the Lords system is massively problematic, but until corrected, the integrity of the system must be upheld.
Written by Conservative writer, Eleanor Roberts
Bercow is an eye-rolling example of the pettiness of peerage – a Labour response
I do find it slightly amusing that the most bombastic and iconoclastic speaker in living memory is sulking over a break from parliamentary convention, but, then again, John Bercow always has to be the centre of attention.
I admired a few of Bercow’s actions in the House, namely his exceptional intervention last year when Boris Johnson outrageously disregarded democracy in the name of a quick Brexit. However, I always regarded him with caution and found the bullying allegations far from surprising. I admit Bercow was entertaining and quick-witted and occasionally did the right thing. However, he was invariably part of the Cameron-era style of politics; a time that favoured zingers and spectacles rather than achieving anything noteworthy.
To be frank, I don’t particularly care if Bercow hasn’t immediately been granted a Lordship. I agree with my Conservative colleague who rightly pointed out, the minute Keir Starmer dethrones Boris Johnson, Bercow will undoubtedly be delivered a peerage.
For too long the House of Lords has been exploited by prime ministers to reward their cronies and snub their enemies. Any fool could have seen this snub of snubs coming from a mile off. The entire institution is an irrelevant joke, and as much as it befits Bercow to take his rightful place within it, I’m sure he can wait a few years without moaning to the BBC. I have little sympathy for him; his successor is far superior. There are far more important things to be focusing on than a petty spat between Conservative MPs.
Written by Labour writer, Max Ingleby