SKETCH: Bercow Does Bashful

The Speaker made his statement (of course). There was barking throughout. Never has a Speaker’s statement been heckled. Scoffing, scornful laughter on “A number of colleagues expressed disquiet.”

He said as little as possible, played it straight, modestly, firmly, with a self-deprecation mild enough to sound plausible. “My preference did not meet with sufficient support,” he said to explain why the combined post was advertised.

The management challenge was larger than it ever has been. The move out of the building and the refurbishment of the buildings was, he implied, beyond the capacity of clerks.

So, the panel chose the candidate to be both chief adviser to parliament and chief executive.

As to separating the roles “Any change would require the consent of the House.”

On the pre-appointment hearing he says he wants to hear views.

He is offering “a modest pause in the recruitment process while views are solicited in detail.”

This is the first stage of what he hopes will be an orderly retreat.

There are some powerful points to be made about Saxton Bampfylde’s role and conduct , and whether the Speaker conspired to keep Ms Mills’ travails away from the Panel.

But these points arise from what he said today.

* No previous recruitment process has been so disorderly. You knew the Clerk would serve three to five years only. Why didn’t you start the process of separating the roles a year ago?

* Any change would require the consent of the House? You have selected a candidate who can only do half the job without the consent of the House. When were you planning on consulting the House?

You want to solicit views in detail. What is the mechanism for presenting views – will they be presented in public or behind closed doors, in private one-to-ones?

But this is just a warm-up. Ranging shots. Exploratory jabs. Sizing up the opposition, calculating its strength and support.

Will he cut and run after the statement? Or will he stay to test the mood of the House?

Either today or tomorrow, battle will be joined in earnest.



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