This bootlicking was suckier than a dental nurse’s spittle pump: QUENTIN LETTS watches on as John Bercow answers a planted question from an old chum over bullying claims
We devote this bulletin to the announcement that 2018’s ‘Sycophantic Planted Question of the Year’ competition has been cancelled. Pictured: Speaker John Bercow
We devote this bulletin to the announcement that 2018’s ‘Sycophantic Planted Question of the Year’ competition has been cancelled.
Not because there is a shortage of entries. Hardly. It is simply that the judges have taken the understandable decision that no one will match the extraordinary effort heard yesterday from Julian Lewis (Con, New Forest E).
He produced a masterpiece of sycophancy, a bootlick so brazen that, in its completeness, it stood comparison with the Koh-i-Noor diamond.
Mr Lewis, who thinks himself a senior parliamentarian (he chairs the defence select committee), rose in points of order. Maria Miller (Con, Basingstoke) had just mentioned the, cough, awkward matter of Speaker Bercow’s alleged mistreatment of another former member of staff.
As BBC2’s Newsnight reported on Tuesday, a one-time secretary to Mr Bercow has alleged that the Speaker ranted and raved at him, swearing, shrieking and smashing a mobile telephone to tinkling smithereens. Little chap had a proper bootie-stamping tantrum, apparently.
Viewers of Newsnight also heard it said that the poor secretary was obliged to sign a non-disclosure agreement and given a hefty pay-off with our money.
Mrs Miller sought further particulars of what sounds to have been rancid bullying by the occupant of a Chair which supposedly embodies civilised debate. She wondered if Bercow would make a personal statement.
Not because there is a shortage of entries. Hardly. It is simply that the judges have taken the understandable decision that no one will match the extraordinary effort heard yesterday from Julian Lewis (pictured) (Con, New Forest E), writes Quentin Letts
The Squeaker, given advance notice of this question, started to read a printed text. He was ‘extremely grateful’ to Mrs Miller and claimed there had been no question of an ex-underling being forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Anyway, those were ‘matters in which I am not myself involved and never have been’.
Okay, who barked with laughter? Who was it who just brayed with disbelief at the back of the ranks? Please. His Excellency Bercow must be heard with the respect we afford a North Korean president.
Back to the Commons. Regarding a personal statement, a shadow of anger flittered across Bercow’s countenance.
‘As for myself,’ he grunted, ‘I have made a public statement to which I. Have. Nothing. To. Add.’
If my punctuation for those last five words is odd, it is simply an attempt to convey the finality with which he was trying to shut down the issue.
Various MPs bounced up, hoping to speak. Bercow ignored them and, head craning, searched out Mr Lewis.
It was as if this was a planned moment. Had he and dear Julian cooked up something between them? It should be explained that Mr Lewis is John Bercow’s oldest chum at Westminster.
It is not a crowded field. Lewis was best man at the blessed nuptials when John made an honest woman of the fragrant Sally.
Bercow faces allegations of bullying from former senior aide Angus Sinclair (pictured)
When Michael Martin was in trouble during the expenses scandal nine years ago, Bercow and Lewis plotted to secure the Speakership.
They went about it with all the subtlety of comedy villains Mr Wint and Mr Kidd in the 007 film Diamonds Are Forever. With Bercow’s Mr Wint under fire yesterday, his old pal Kidd (that is, Mr Lewis) came to his rescue.
‘At the risk of pushing my luck,’ he said with his trademark mew, ‘can I just ask you to confirm that the great majority of staff in your office have served you for a substantial period of years and that the great majority of those who have left have left on perfectly amicable terms?’
Was it not superb? Suckier than a dental nurse’s spittle pump. More obliging than a Pharaoh’s catamite.
Mr Lewis bowled this brazen dolly-drop with a completely straight face, as though genuinely seeking information.
And lo and behold, the Squeaker was in there with an answer as fast as a Jack Russell at raw liver, producing a gloopy tribute to his ‘superb team of dedicated’ employees and noting how many years the poor beggars had put up with him.
The Rt Hon Julian Lewis MP. Forensic titan of truth. The man they’ll never gag. Abasing himself at the size six shoes of Westminster’s tetchy titch.
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