Speaker Bercow – the Commons chose the Lord’s chosen
It was a curious congratulatory line from the Leader of the Opposition.
David Cameron remarked on the fact that John Bercow is the first Speaker to have been born into the Jewish faith, and he referred to it as a milestone.
And he made it a point of religion, not of ethnicity, which is curious because John Bercow’s Semitism – his biological DNA – has been the only immutable constant in a political life which has been built on sand. YHWH was placed conveniently on the shelf decades ago along with the menorah. It would have made more sense had Mr Cameron left religion out of it altogether and simply congratulated Mr Bercow for being the first of 157 Speakers to be a Jew. For, although Speaker Bercow may have been born into the Jewish faith, it got lost somewhere in the wilderness, or was purposely discarded along with the rest of his religio-political heritage.
Just as Conservatives are recognisable by the way they vote, those of the Jewish faith are recognisable by their faithful adherence, their honouring of God, their obedience to his commands. But there is very little that makes John Bercow either a convicted Conservative or a practising Jew: his mind does not seek to conserve that which is good and his heart is not circumcised. The only thing he has in common with Conservatives is a sizeable majority in the home counties; the only thing he has in common with the Lord’s chosen people is that he has himself now been chosen.
Democracy is a curious thing – it tends to deliver precisely what the people deserve. And maybe the electorate of the House of Commons deserves John Bercow. He tries so hard to be all things to all people, yet he is everything and nothing. He is convicted of nothing strongly, except perhaps the righteousness of his own conviction, the uprightness of his amorality and the universal salvation which is to be found in his gospel. At one time or another he has held the whole spectrum of political thought in his hands, and yet it has all slipped through.
Speaker Bercow is not for all seasons and certainly not to all tastes. But he is thoroughly postmodern and a child of postmodernity. He is a shifting, complex and confusing object of study, representing both the continuation of modernity and its transcendence. His election is an anti-establishment reaction and yet the fulfilment of the wishes of that establishment. He encompasses the broadest scope because his own journey has been a panoramic sweep. He holds to no particular truth, no coherent philosophy, and no doctrine of God. For him, all knowledge is subjective; foundationalism must be undermined; communitarianism transcends individualism; and political truth must be encountered emotionally and intuitively as well as rationally. Speaker Bercow is the embodiment of postmodernism. He evidences a willingness to combine symbols from disparate codes or frameworks of meaning, even at the cost of disjunctions and eclecticism. He will not wear 18th-century tights or don the Speaker's wig, and yet, curiously, he has the precise affected Restoration foppish manner which would sport them perfectly, for he preens and minces like Mr Sparkish.
He celebrates spontaneity, fragmentation, superficiality, irony and playfulness. He has been variously described as maverick, mercurial, vain, self-promoting, partisan, pompous, divisive, careerist and pretentious. He has been disloyal – sometimes outrageously so – to three successive Conservative leaders, and his voting record is capricious. He supported Ken Clarke to be leader of the Conservative Party and opposes a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Suffice to say, he will not be remotely concerned with the sovereignty of Parliament or that of the people.
But it is time to set aside the acrimony, hatred, loathing and resentment. Speaker Bercow now bears the heavy burden of a great office of state and presides of the legislature with the authority which the Lord has bestowed upon him.
And we are commanded to pray for him.
And let us not forget those who now have to work with him and under him.