« Greg Hands compares Gordon Brown's attitude to public spending with the behaviour of a binge drinker | Main | Tories under Cameron less likely to vote against principle of Labour legislation »

Speaker Bercow defends his wife's right to her own opinions - and backs the campaign to Save General Election Night

John Bercow interview Commons Speaker John Bercow has given a wide-ranging interview to Carolyn Quinn of The Westminster Hour, which will be broadcast on this Sunday's programme on Radio 4 at 10pm.

Here are some of the highlights, which have been released to the media in advance...

He says that his detractors should judge him on how he performs as Speaker:

“I started from the very straight forward premise that the best response to doubt, scepticism and outright criticism is not to engage in a war of words, but to show that I can do the job – to prove that I am competent; for it to be clear for all to see that I am fair.”

He is "cautiously optimistic" that he will remain Speaker after the election:

“I’m cautiously optimistic that I will stay in post. Of course, there is always gossip and chatter and tittle-tattle. Just as a minister has to focus on his or her departmental responsibilities, so as Speaker I have to focus on my responsibilities.”

He insists that his wife, a Labour council candidate, is perfectly entitled to her own views:

“It’s a very old-fashioned view that suggests that somehow the spouse of the Speaker is an appendage of the Speaker. I have a responsibility, Carolyn, to be absolutely impartial. That obligation applies to me. It certainly doesn’t apply to my wife. My wife isn’t my chattel and I think there will be thousands of people listening to your programme who will say, ‘Quite right. John Bercow’s got the job of Speaker, but what his wife as an independent person chooses to say or do is a completely different matter’.

"At the heart of the criticism of me here, there are two factors. First, some people are pursuing the old-fashioned, nasty and rather cowardly tactic of trying to get at me through my wife – it’s very low-grade stuff and I don’t attach any great significance to it. The second thing is I think there is a good deal of old-fashioned chauvinism. The notion that somehow my wife has got a duty either to agree with me or to say nothing. My wife is an independent person, she’s entitled to her own views. If she seeks to be a candidate, she’s perfectly entitled to be.”

He backs the Save General Election Night campaign's aim of Thursday night counts at the general election:

SaveElectionNight graphic “The idea that it should be put off to the following day seems to me to be a travesty. A general election is ordinarily a once in four or once in five year event. It should not frankly be beyond the wit or sagacity of local authorities round the country to ensure that they’ve got the staff in place that the votes can be counted on time and the result announced accordingly. I hope others will join me in making the case for instant democracy not slow motion democracy.“

He also expresses his view that the Commons should sit in September:

"In my view, the House of Commons should be sitting in September. Think of this year: we will have had a general election. There must be huge amounts of business. There will be a legislative programme, there is a global economic challenge, there is a war taking place in Afghanistan, there is a heightened threat of international terrorism. The public would regard it as bizarre if the House of Commons were to take the view that well, we don’t actually have business to justify being present in September.”

“Sometimes people say well, you can't really meet in September because it’s the conference season. Well, the party conferences are important, but the party conferences are conferences of voluntary organisations meeting, in a sense, for private purposes. The idea that that should trump the obligation to be present to scrutinise, to hold the Government to account is extraordinary."

Jonathan Isaby


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.