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Commons Speaker in trouble already

HOPES that a new Speaker in Britain's House of Commons would restore public faith in politics after a damaging expenses scandal were dashed yesterday when a Conservative Member of Parliament called John Bercow's election "almost a two-fingered salute" to the public, referring to a rude gesture.

Nadine Dorries said only three Conservatives had voted for fellow-party member Bercow, whose accession to the Speaker's chair was greeted by sullen silence from Tory benches.

"It was a vindictive political act on behalf of the Labour Party towards what they see to be the future Conservative government and the British people," Dorries said. "It was almost a two-fingered salute to the British people from the Labour MPs, and to the Conservative party."

Bercow, who at 46 will be the youngest Commons speaker for 170 years, is disliked by Conservative colleagues after moving from the far-right of the party to a position many thought too close to Labour.

"A lot of Conservatives feel John positioned himself in order to woo Labour to get the speakership - a lot of people are annoyed that it worked," Alan Duncan, Conservative shadow leader of the Commons, said.

Bercow told MPs ahead of the election he would implement an "agenda of reform, for renewal and for the reassertion of this great institution."

But Duncan said that Bercow's role as a reformer would be limited and that MPs themselves would initiate most of the changes party leaders have said are necessary to restore public trust in parliament.

Plans are under way to transfer the Speaker's responsibility for the administration of parliamentary expenses to an independent body, Duncan said. "That massive part of the reforming agenda of a new Speaker will already, by the time he speaks on the chair for the first time, be on the way out," he said.

The son of a London taxi driver, Bercow replaces former speaker Michael Martin. MPs had blamed Martin for presiding over the parliamentary expenses scandal that provoked public fury and the resignation of several MPs.


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