Suddenly, it’s not circus and ringmaster but chair-poking lion tamer and circling lions.
For years, John Bercow has been Labour’s Speaker. They have colluded. They meet and plot. They brief mutually.
On Monday night, Bercow was pursuing an obscure and insignificant change to standing orders and he was abandoned by the Labour Whips. Their front bench opposed him. The Motion failed and he was humiliated in the House.
He realized that it’s a one-way street. Labour colludes with him only insofar as it damages Tories.
Was this why he snapped at two Labour MPs in the Autumn Statement, including Chris “Well done, John!” Ruane?
More important, he failed to protect his old ally Ed Balls. The noise during the shadow chancellor’s turn was unrelenting. Bercow couldn’t control the Tories.
And he tried.
“It doesn’t bother me,” he said, trying to restore order. “It just lengthens the proceedings. I enjoy chairing.”
He stood there in a Tory storm of “More! More! More!” smiling a brave, fixed smile. Then he sat down and didn’t try again.
Fairly or not, Labour resented this.
It was an old prediction of mine, that Bercow’s partisan treatment of Tories would create a reaction and ultimately he would lose control of the House – and thereby his authority, and finally his position.
That would be the Aesop morality that sometimes comes to pass in politics – where leaders are undone by their own flaws (Blair by the War, Brown by his – oh, where to start?)
We’re not quite there with Bercow, but at least everyone can see how it might happen.