Friday, January 15, 2010

Betty Lays Into Bercow Over Dress Code








Andrew Neil has interviewed former House of Commons Speaker Betty Boothroyd for STRAIGHT TALK, which will be broadcast tomorrow on the News Channel at 4.30pm and 10.30pm. During the interview she makes clear what she thinks of John Bercow's decision to dress in less formal attire. She accuses him of "lertting the side down".

Andrew Neil: What about the new Speaker, is he getting it right?
Betty Boothroyd: I think he’s making a good stab of it actually. He’s a young man who’s got a lot to say for himself. And I tell you, I went to see him about four days after he’d been elected – at my invitation – and I wanted to tell him a few home truths.
AN: So you invited yourself?
BB: I invited myself, yes, and he was very welcoming, kissed me on both cheeks, and one or two things I said to him quite seriously, look, when the House sits on a Friday I expect you as Speaker to be there on a Friday, it is a 5 day working week here. When a Secretary of State is making a statement, I expect you as Speaker to be in the Chair as a courtesy to that Secretary of State, especially as you and I always want the Secretary of State to come to the House first - all of these things which I felt had slipped sometimes, must be pulled back, there were one or two things like this. And another thing I said to him – which I’m still very concerned about - I want the Speaker to wear the uniform of the Speaker everyday. I had been just before I went to see him – and I was encouraged to do this - I’d been at a defence establishment function, people in uniform there, they said to me, Betty, we’re proud of our uniform, why isn’t the Speaker? Seven hundred years of this. I said, right you’ve encouraged me to go and see him. I said, “Look” - I’ve told him about this - I said, “Nurses like their uniform, boy scouts, girl guides; you’ve 700 years of history behind you.” He said he didn’t feel comfortable. I said, “Well, look, I’m not going to volunteer what I’ve just said to you, John, but if I’m ever asked” - and I’m asked by you – “having told you what I thought about it, and what I think about it, I’m going to say that, and I just think you’re letting the side down a little bit, by not doing that.”


Personally, I would like to see the Speaker wearing a wig again. But I'm a traditionalist.

21 comments:

simon said...

No standards, no sense of tradition, no dress sense. Typical Tory.

Desperate Dan said...

Bercow feels safe in his Buckingham constituency because "tradition" dictates that no-one should stand against him. But if he cares nothing for tradition why should anyone else.

sunonmars said...

Good on her, i respect Betty, i think personally best speaker the HoC ever had.

Plato said...

Good on her. Bercow thinks he's above the office so doesn't need to wear the uniform that goes with it.

Oik.

Shame he thinks that spending £45k on doing up his grace-and-favour apartment is okidoki though - just like his expenses.

I sincerely hope he gets voted out when the new Parliament sits.

Matthew Cain said...

Leaving aside whether you agree with it, it's a shocking statement from a former Labour MP. If she believes that something should be maintained because it is a tradition, she shouldn't have joined the Labour Party.

William said...

I agree with Betty. I hope they get rid of Bercow at the next election. I am also a traditionalist and do worry about how much of our heritage we will have swept away by the next decade.
There is actually a point in the wig. The same reason they are worn in court. They are supposed to be intimidating. Many people probably think they make people look like clowns on the TV, but when you are standing next to someone wearing a wig they do look like someone you wouldn't want to cross.

Conand said...

@ Desperate Dan

Well said.

What an innately sensible and conservative woman Baroness Boothroyd is.
The Speaker is an eternal office which shouldn't be damaged by any one holder of that office.
For all his bluster about reform John Bercow seems to have precious little interest in re-introducing Parliamentary Democracy.

Desperate Dan said...

Michael Martin spent £1.7million refurbishing the Speaker's House and Bercow has so far spent getting on for £50,000. Did Betty leave it in a bit of a mess or is "refurbishment" a novel way of laundering "expenses"?

Unsworth said...

The trappings of State are important. They serve to remind us of the importance - and responsibilities - of Office. But that doesn't suit the likes of Bercow who always seem to believe they know so much better than their predecessors. Bercow's desire to 'modernise' is crass. It's not necessary, and it's the action of a low-grade clerk, tinkering with something that he really doesn't understand to try to make a name for himself. Why should centuries of tradition be simply swept aside?

Boothroyd didn't find it necessary, did she? Nor does The Queen. She could just as easily decide to turn up to the State Opening in a Daimler wearing pearls and twin-set with her husband in tweed jacket and flannels. Why not? After all, she's only there to read out loud a damn silly speech written by some cretinous oik working in Downing Street - but she has the sense and courtesy not to do so.

What is necessary is for the incumbents at Westminster to return to the principles and virtues of earlier centuries. Great Parliamentarians are always distinguished by their integrity and respect for tradition. How many of the current generation can be, or will be, viewed as great?

Unsworth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jimmy said...

"but when you are standing next to someone wearing a wig they do look like someone you wouldn't want to cross."

Never really worked for Fabricant.

Rob Fenwick said...

“Well, look, I’m not going to volunteer what I’ve just said to you, John, but if I’m ever asked” - and I’m asked by you -

Ahem. Could someone point to where Andrew Neil asked her to comment on the Speaker's suit!?

N A Berry said...

An excellent comment from Betty. I'm sure it's been said before but Bercow just reminds me of a minor public school teacher in his suit and gown. Although come to think of it perhaps that is rather apt...

Joe Public said...

Conand @ 4:46

"The Speaker is an eternal office which shouldn't be damaged by any one holder of that office."

Bercow can't damage it any more than Gorbal's Mick did.

John R said...

With a bit of luck his tenure will be short lived and brought to an abrupt end post-GE.

Unsworth said...

@ Joe Public

"Bercow can't damage it any more than Gorbal's Mick did"

Yeah, but he's trying very hard....

Mirtha Tidville said...

Betty Boothroyd was a true Democrat whereas Berkow is just a prat. As a newly reformed cynic I cant help wondering how much influence his self confessed slapper of a wife exercised....Still with a bit of luck and Farrage magic you never know..

David Lindsay said...

First, she signs up to Balanced Migration. And now this.

Baroness Boothroyd stands firmly in the tradition of the trade unionists and activists who dismissed an attempt to make the nascent Labour Party anti-monarchist. Of the delivery of the Welfare State, workers’ rights, progressive taxation and full employment by a political movement replete with MBEs, OBEs, CBEs, mayoral chains, aldermen’s gowns, and civic services; a movement which proudly provided a high proportion of Peers of the Realm, Knights of the Garter, members of the Order of Merit, and Companions of Honour, who had rejoiced in their middle periods to be Lords Privy Seal, or Comptrollers of Her Majesty’s Household, or so many other such things, in order to deliver those goods within the parliamentary process in all its ceremony.

The tradition of Peter Shore’s denunciation of the Major Government’s decision to scrap the Royal Yacht, and his support for Canadian against Spanish fishermen not least because Canada and the United Kingdom shared a Head of State. And of the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party, founded out of the trade union movement specifically in order to secure for the British workers of Gibraltar the same pay and conditions enjoyed by other British workers.

That tradition is the great bulwark, not least against "Conservative" Governments past or future (and especially against any Blairite "Conservative" Government such as David Cameron would inflict on us) of concern that power should not be transferred from elected parliamentarians to unelected judges. Of concern that any elected second chamber should not subvert the authority of the House of Commons.

The great bulwark of concern that electoral reform should not mean voting for parties rather than people, should not destroy direct local representation, should not give power to anti-constitutional or anti-democratic forces, and should not prevent necessary radical action on behalf of the poor or otherwise disadvantaged. Of total opposition to the constraint of any future Parliament by any written Constitution. And of total opposition to any State funding of political parties that detaches them even further from wider civil society.

That tradition, that bulwark demands a restored voice in the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity.

Victor, NW Kent said...

Batty Boothroyd was an excellent Speaker. She spoiled us for those who follow.

Mrs R said...

Some people seem to forget they are doing a job, and it's the job that's important - not them.

Let's hope the next Speaker understands this.

ukipwebmaster said...

Betty was the best! It's gone downhill since she went.