Tim Ireland writes concerning John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons:
It was my understanding after direct conversations and correspondence with John Bercow’s wife, Sally Bercow, that a ‘peace deal’ had been brokered between that couple and Nadine Dorries to the effect that she would not act in an aggressive manner towards them if they did not act in an aggressive manner towards her. (If you are not familiar with Nadine Dorries, the laughingly absurd inequities of such an agreement may not be immediately clear to you. Read on.)
John Bercow has now denied that any kind of ‘peace deal’ had been brokered, and described my allegations as “defamatory remarks made against a named Member of Parliament” in an email that – now I look closely at it – does not make it entirely clear if this refers to himself, or Nadine Dorries, or both. Whatever the case may be, it was clearly important that he speak with his wife, and I said so in my reply.
It was important because Bercow’s wife had communicated with Tim in January 2011:
Hi Tim – I’m sure you think I’m a sell-out but I just had to win Nadine over – she was on air abt J & I every week! Xxx… she hasn’t sounded off about us for at least 6 weeks!
A few months later, Dorries was appointed by Bercow to the Panel of Chairs, a supposedly senior advisory body. Telegraph journalist Peter Oborne was incredulous:
Only six months ago [autumn 2010], Bercow was tottering and it seemed possible that he would become the second consecutive Speaker to be thrown out of office. Tory backbenchers were openly contemptuous…
The Speaker suddenly realised that he had a fight on his hands, and went to work to save his skin. His wife Sally played an important role, acting as an intermediary between Dorries and Bercow. Initially, Mrs Bercow was hostile: when Dorries was cleared last year by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner [over her expenses – see here], Sally Bercow emitted one of her notoriously indiscreet tweets: “So Nadine Dorries is a fantasist, not a fraudster. Well that’s alright then…” Later on, however, her attitude became more supportive: indeed, they formed a public friendship, which may have played a role in last month’s announcement that Dorries was joining the Speaker’s panel.
There’s no indication that John Bercow made any similar complaint of “defamatory remarks” to Oborne – perhaps Bercow thinks bloggers are easier to push around?
Tim has now responded to Bercow, highlighting several instances where Dorries has misled either Parliament (e.g. the Forsaken organisation) or the general public (including false accusations of “stalking” against critics). By giving her a position of responsibility, Bercow may have saved his career, but at the expense of the best interests of the country.
Back in June 2009, Dorries used the Daily Mail to denounce John Bercow as (to quote the headline summary) “an oily opportunist lacking loyalty and courage”; she received her preferment from Bercow less than two years later. More recently, she used David Cameron’s private apology to her for his “frustrated” gaffe as the basis for a Mail piece entitled “The PM Publicly Humiliated Me in Front of the Entire Nation, What Did I Do to Deserve That?” If Cameron shares Bercow’s apparent propensity for appeasement, a few more articles along those lines might get her into the Cabinet.
UPDATE: Sally Bercow has responded, in a Tweet to another person. Here’s the exchange:
Gillon Johnstone: hope your doing ok the bs being spouted by a particular blogger yesterday was below the belt unfair and ridiculous
Sally Bercow: I’m good thanks. And yes indeed – utterly absurd. xx
“The problem is that policy is being run by two public school boys [Cameron and George Osborne] who don’t know what it’s like to go to the supermarket and have to put things back on the shelves because they can’t afford it for their children’s lunchboxes. What’s worse, they don’t care either.”
Dorries’ comment was gleefully quoted by Labour MP Sharon Hodgson in Parliament during Prime Minister’s Questions; Cameron dismissed the statement as “nonsense”, but there’s no indication that he thinks it’s time for him to tell Dorries who’s boss.
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