UK Politics

Andrea Leadsom: Speaker John Bercow's MP insults 'hurtful'

Media captionSpeaker insults 'quite hurtful' says Andrea Leadsom

Speaker John Bercow's attempts to prevent rowdiness in the Commons can be "downright quite hurtful", Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom has said.

In a discussion on the BBC's Daily Politics programme, the MP for South Northamptonshire praised Mr Bercow's efforts to champion the rights of backbench MPs.

But she added: "He's as bad as anyone when it comes to personal insults."

The Speaker's insults were sometimes funny, she conceded.

Since taking office in 2009, Mr Bercow has campaigned for better behaviour in the Commons during the prime minister's weekly visit to take MPs' questions, when the atmosphere often becomes feverish.

One method at his disposal is to single out overly noisy MPs for ridicule.


Earlier in February, he told Education Secretary Michael Gove: "You need to write out a thousand times: 'I will behave myself at Prime Minister's Questions.'"

He is also fond of publicly urging MPs, as Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop has found, to calm themselves and "take up yoga".

But sometimes his interventions are less light-hearted: Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger was once accused of "stupid" and "pompous" heckling.

"If you can't be quiet, get out," he has advised numerous MPs, including Mr Liddell-Grainger.

Media captionSpeaker tells Education Secretary Michael Gove told to write lines
Media captionJohn Bercow tells the PM it would be a "good idea to try to remember the essence of question that was put"
Media captionSpeaker Bercow deals with MPs in House of Commons

"I actually think he's rather a good Speaker," Ms Leadsom said.

"He certainly defends the backbenches very well in terms of their right to speak. He keeps us all to order."

Ms Leadsom pointed out that she had been elected in 2010 and therefore had not experienced at first hand the methods of any of his predecessors in the chair.

"But I understand he gets through the questions, so he gives loads of people the chance to have their say.

"So actually in terms of chairing he's pretty good, but I don't like him insulting colleagues.

"He's as bad as anyone when it comes to personal insults, and sometimes it's funny but other times it's just downright quite hurtful."


Last week, Mr Bercow wrote to party leaders David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, urging them to clamp down on "yobbery and public school twittishness" at Prime Minister's Questions.

"I don't think we should be prissy about this, but I am not sure we're setting a good example to the next generation of voters," he told them.

Labour's Mr Miliband subsequently told the BBC he was keen to try to find ways to change the tone of the weekly exchange but acknowledged it would be "incredibly hard".

"I think it was President Obama who said you can disagree without being disagreeable and in a way maybe that's a sort of lesson for Prime Minister's Questions," he said.

But that was "easier to state and harder to execute" in the "cauldron of the House of Commons", he added.

During Mr Cameron's 2005 campaign to become leader of the Conservative Party, the future PM pledged to bring an end to the "Punch and Judy" nature of PMQs.

"I will absolutely hold up my hand," he said in 2008, "this is a promise I haven't been able to deliver".

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