I bumped into Commons Speaker John Bercow at a charity do the other night, and we had a little chat about the need for politics to do a better job of defending itself against media negativity, and about what it’s like living with strong-minded women who don’t always agree with everything we say and do.
It is the second part of that I want to address today, after reading the comments of his wife Sally, who is planning to run as a Labour candidate in Westminster council elections, despite her husband being elected as a Tory MP.
Now Fiona and I have had our differences, some of which are recorded in The Blair Years. But neither of us could ever imagine living with someone on the other side of the political divide.
I was always intrigued for example by the relationship between James Carville, who I got to know when he was Bill Clinton’s passionately pro-Democrat strategist, and Mary Matalin, who I worked with when she was on the payroll of hardline Republican Vice President Dick Cheney. ‘How on earth does it work?’ I asked her. ‘Don’t ask me, but somehow it does.’
I remember a Labour activist once proudly proclaiming his credentials by saying he had never ‘knowingly slept with (sic) a Tory,’ and that kind of tribalism fits my own worldview.
Yet Fiona and I have had fundamental disagreements on some pretty big issues and still managed to hold it together as a couple. And what struck me talking to John Bercow was how proud he seemed to be of his wife having her own mind and her own ambitions.
I will come on to what she said in a moment but first take a look at the quote of Tory MP Nadine Dorries. ‘We desperately need to restore both authority and respect to Parliament. What this interview has done is remove any painstaking progress Parliament has made and reduced the Speaker and his office to that of a laughing stock.’
I totally disagree. I think Sally Bercow’s independence of mind and views, and his view of them, speak rather well of the Speaker.
While the Tory papers (ie most of them) have gone on her confessions of binge drinking and one night stands, what Dorries and other Tories probably object to is the spot-on content of her political comments.
She says David Cameron is a ‘merchant of spin.’ No controversy there then. Statement of fact.
He is ‘an archetypal Tory,’ she says. ‘He favours the interests of the few over the mainstream majority.’ Er, inheritance tax cut for the Notting Hill set anyone?
‘Deep down I do think the Tory Party is for the privileged few. They’re not really interested in opportunity for all.’ Which is why they opposed so many of the measures Labour brought in to extend opportunity and why their spending and tax cutting priorities are skewed towards the top end.
On schools she says that despite Cameron using state primary schools ‘there’s not a real commitment to the state sector among the Tories. The vast majority of the shadow cabinet send their children privately.’ It is in their DNA. How else could it be when your party has always believed that an elite should run the country for an elite.
Spot on too with her opposition to selective (ie rejective) grammar schools.
Tory MPs are busy saying it is bad enough she is standing for a probably winnable council seat, but it would be an outrage if she were to land a winnable seat for Labour in Parliament.
Au contraire. I mean as part of the new post-expenses scandal regime, spouses are to be banned from working for MPs. So she might as well try to get a job independent of him but which allows her to be in the same place some of the time, able to keep an eye on the kids and make sure his dinner is cooking nicely. (Oops, lapse to northern type there, apologies Sisters.)
Seriously though, she looks to me like she could be a breath of fresh air.
Go for it Sally. And keep saying what you think about Dave and his gang.
They don’t like it up ’em. You’re not even allowed to say what schools they went to without them bleating on about ‘class war.’
Apparently Dave, Boris, Zak and Co used to call George Osborne ‘oik’ … because he only went to St Paul’s.
Use that one Sally … ‘Order, order … ‘
And by the way, will someone explain to me why we no longer see the famous Bullingdon Club picture any more? Couldn’t be that one of Dave’s rich and powerful friends has bought it out of circulation, could it?
If background doesn’t matter, why don’t they want to be open about it?