23 Jun 2009

Speaker Bercow’s reforms will start at (second) home

Just back from the splendour of Speaker’s House state rooms where I’ve been interviewing John Bercow.

It’s a bit like a doge’s palace in there. Speaker Bercow will be living in the less stately but pretty nice private accommodation upstairs, with his young family. There will have to be a few adaptations to the property.

He was avoiding taking any pot shots at the Tory MPs who’ve been abusing him for years and who last night moved into a new gear of fury and expletives.

You get a strong sense that John Bercow thinks a lot of it is not just because his political sympathies moved leftwards but because his social origins were not to their liking.

He insists that he was “not milking the system,” even though his second home allowance expense claims were consistently nudging the top limit.

He says he didn’t feel he’d wrongly claimed the money he paid back but that the mood of the times made it a good idea to pay it back.

I asked why so many of his claims seemed to be “rounded up” – he said it was covering real costs and money that had been spent in performing his duties.

I asked him if he would allow Harriet Harman to make her statement in the Commons this afternoon given that some of it appeared to be in the Daily Mail this morning… I got the impression the statement would be going ahead as normal.

Much of John Bercow’s rhetoric about being the candidate of change relates to asserting the backbenchers’ power and giving the Speakership a new, younger look and feel.

On expenses, I should add, he is saying he will not claim the second home allowance any more. Will the public feel he is a break with the past and represents real change?

Tweets by @garygibbonblog