Saturday, 14 November 2009

Bercow Would Be No Great Loss

After the revelation that little Johnny Bercow's beanpole wife (relatively speaking) is standing in local council elections for the Labourists in Westminster, today the Telegraph reports that he has spent a small fortune redecorating the Speaker's grace and favour apartments. Cost to you and me? A cool £45,000. So the story goes, it was wifey Sally Bercow (you know, the prospective Labour local councillor) and not little Johnny who was the brains behind this latest bit of troughing. How predictable. The Telegraph then goes on to explain why this should be a major embarrassment to the wee man:

Emails reveal that Mrs Bercow compiled a lengthy “shopping list” of items that she wished to have changed in the Speaker’s historic official residence within days of her husband’s election.

The new documents, released under Freedom of Information laws, also disclose that Mr Bercow has spent almost £13,000 on entertaining and hospitality - including a three-night trip to Rome costing almost £4,000 - in just three months.

Mr Bercow had faced criticism over his use of expenses when he was a backbench Conservative MP, claiming the maximum amount permissible to fund another Westminster flat.

The new disclosures about Mr Bercow's spending are likely to prove embarrassing for the new Speaker who was elected on a promise to restore trust in Parliament in the wake of the MPs' expenses scandal.

During his campaign to become speaker, he said: “It is high time the House (of Commons) was run by professionals on a transparent basis, ensuring that we are accountable to the people who put us here.”

Michael Martin, his predecessor as speaker, had been criticised for his use of taxpayers’ money, including extensive renovations of the speaker’s official residence which ran to more than £700,000.

After succeeding him, Mr Bercow vowed to modernise Parliament and make it “accountable to the people” and transparent in its operation.

He pledged to surrender the MP's second homes allowance worth more than £24,000. However, the new documents disclose, he has already ordered renovations on his new Westminster appartment worth more.

In August, the Speaker admitted that he spent just over £20,000 on refurbishing his official apartment before moving in with his wife and children.

However, documents have now revealed how the true cost was actually £45,581, as Commons officials agreed to account for extensive redecoration and other work as 'routine maintenance' which Mr Bercow did not declare publicly.

Mr Bercow is expected to be under pressure to release a breakdown of the work conducted as 'routine maintenance'.

Should we be furious? Yes. Should he be punished? Yes. But how? Well, I would think the obvious measure would be first, when the Tories win the next election, he is removed as Speaker. He was, after all, placed in the role by a Labour government hell bent on hurting the Tories, not 'reforming' parliament and the expenses system - even though some might be moved to think that this strategy has backfired (Bercow, let's be fair, has not been quite the full-on patsy I imagine Labour expected him to be). The fact that they thought he, a Tory MP (of sorts), was the man for that job speaks volumes about the man.

And it brings me to the second part of his punishment. He is no longer a Tory MP, sure, but he should be left in no doubt that he will never be allowed to be a Tory MP, or even a member of the Conservative party, again. That should just about do it. Yes, I think so.

Just in case you're not convinced yet or you think that I'm being somehow 'mean' to the irritating, money-grubbing little scrote, read the rest of the report:

Emails show how Mrs Bercow, who last week declared her desire to become a Labour councillor in Westminster, communicated with Parliamentary officials over the refurbishment requirements.

“The existing wall paper is very office/board-roomy,” she wrote on June 30th.. “So, if at all possible, can the walls be redecorated.

“Can the TV be replaced with a larger one and moved into a more central location (like it or not, it will be a focal point for the kids!!!),” she continued. “I assume it will have SKY and we’ll need a DVD player too if possible.”

The work – initially estimated to have cost £23,400 by July 8th - had almost doubled in price by the end of the same month.

The emails show that Commons officials were becoming concerned about the spiralling cost of the work. However, they agreed to allow the Bercows to continue with the renovations.

One official wrote on July 1st: “My concern is that the list is getting longer, which isn’t technically a problem, but I know that you are very mindful of the costs and only wish to do what is considered as ‘reasonable’.

“The latest version [of the renovations spreadsheet] has everything included and I think that the best way to view it, is as a shopping/wish list. If any costs come out as excessive…we can always review the options and make the necessary decisions.”

An email discloses that the £45,000 cost of the work was split into two spreadsheets before the lower £20,000 figure was released in August.

Any redecorating which had not been done for at least five years was described as the 'routine maintenance' and excluded.

However, it can also be revealed how the costs of this routine maintenance doubled between an estimate in early July of £11,500 and the final cost of £24,922 just three weeks later.

A source close to the Speaker said that most of the extra work was to parts of the official residence which are not used as the family’s private living quarters.

He said that the £20,000 figure which had been released originally represented the additional cost to the taxpayer of the Speaker being someone with children.

“We tried to isolate the costs to the taxpayer of Mr Bercow and his family moving in,” he said. “A lot of the other work is beyond the control of the Speaker and is determined by English Heritage and other bodies.

“Mr Bercow has no plans to do anything, this is a one off.”

The new Speaker has also spent £12,812 on entertaining and official functions during his first three months. This is far higher than the amounts spent by Lord Martin of Springburn during his final three years in office.

Mr Bercow’s entertainment costs include £3,599 on a three night trip to Rome to attend a G8 Speaker’s conference. He was accompanied by three other people whose identities are not disclosed in the released documents but are thought to be officials.

He is the second youngest Speaker in history and the first in living memory to have three young children – Oliver, Freddie and Jemima, who are all under six.

The official speaker's residence is underneath Big Ben in the Palace of Westminster. It was designed by Charles Barry and contains a state dining room and a canopied bed to be slept in by the monarch on the night before a coronation.

Mr Bercow has previously said that much of the renovation work was necessary to make the apartment child-friendly. For example, locks had to be fitted to the windows for the safety of his young children.

He previously lived in another flat in Westminster which was also funded by the taxpayer. He repaid almost £8,000 earlier this year after The Daily Telegraph raised questions about his lawful avoidance of capital-gains tax on the sale of two properties.

However, Mr Bercow is thought to have refused to surrender his gold-plated pension – which guarantees to pay half his income when he retires regardless of how long he remains in the job. As he is only currently aged 46, this is a very valuable perk.

In an interview to be broadcast on Sunday, Mr Bercow will defend his wife’s right to stand as a Labour candidate in next year’s council elections.

But he acknowledged that he could expect the mother of his three children to be portrayed as “a cross between Jerry Hall, Lady Macbeth and Eva Peron” because of her decision to get involved in electoral politics.

“My wife isn't my chattel, she's my wife,” he will say on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

“She is a private citizen who has her own views and is an independent person. And it has long been known that my wife is a supporter of the Labour Party, so I don't think there's anything odd, embarrassing and certainly there's nothing underhand about it.”


Bercow was no great loss to the Tory party. He will be no great loss as Speaker. Besides, then he'll be free to do what all the signs seem to point to him wanting to do for so long: join the Labour party. At least that will put him in the Missus' good books. She clearly wears the trousers, after all.

I know I was a bit slow off the mark with this one - been doing stuff. For a more immediate - and rather more violent - reaction, therefore, try Tangled Web. Great!


  1. What's he gonna do with his precioussssssss?

  2. I'd try feeding her as a start if I were him....I've seen more meat on a chicken mcnugget!

  3. lol

    "I've seen more meat on a chicken mcnugget!"

    That's not meat, UB ;)


Any thoughts?