John Bercow: 'Critics Are Bitter And Resentful Of My Success'

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Speaker Bercow with his wife Sally, who has often been the target of press criticism | Getty Images

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has lashed out at his critics accusing them of being "embittered and resentful" at his success.

In a colourful interview on BBC Radio 4's World at One, Bercow said many MPs who had failed to block him from becoming Speaker were jealous of his achieving high office and should stop "sulking".

"People who never wanted me to win in the first place, and in many cases strove very hard to stop me winning, have tended to feel a lingering sense of grievance," he said.

"Sometimes people who haven't achieved what they wanted to achieve in their political career can display some signs of resentment.

He added: "Not necessarily because they wanted to be Speaker, but they feel 'well my talents haven't been recognised, that fellow was a rather free-wheeling, independent minded, perhaps (even in their minds) disloyal backbench member' and suddenly he pops up as Speaker."

"Just as I don't bear a grudge against anybody who didn't vote for me, I would argue if people are fair minded they shouldn't be sulking three years on about who won," he said.

The Speaker admitted that while some MPs were a fan of his, others thought he was too "puffed up with his own importance".

Bercow was elected Speaker in 2009 in the wake of the expenses scandal. Although a Conservative MP, he was unpopular among many of his Tory colleagues and secured the job thanks to the backing of Labour MPs.

Since his election he has many infamous run-ins with backbenchers and ministers, including on one occasion when the senior Tory Mark Pritchard lost his cool and shouted "you’re not f****** royalty" at him in a Commons corridor.

Bercow said it was a "sadness" that his critics were so "embittered" and "resentful" that they sought to "undermine and brief against" him as well as make public criticisms.

The Speaker said that when he sought the job he did so because he wanted to change the way parliament operated.

"I never aspired to be Speaker simply so I could say, I am the Speaker of the House of Commons and tell my children that," he said.

"I wanted it because I felt there was a task to be undertaken and that is about strengthening backbench involvement and opportunity, and helping parliament get off its knees and recognise it isn't just here as a rubber stamping operation for the government of the day."

Since taking office Bercow has won praise for his willingness to force the government to account for itself in the Commons through the granting of so-called Urgent Questions - the mechanism by which MPs can ask the Speaker to summon a minister to the Despatch Box.

"The only people it might perhaps irk are ministers who are inconvenienced thereby, and possibly their diary secretaries," he said.

Bercow admitted this had made him a "dartboard right across Whitehall" but said this did not concern him.

The Speaker, who has also been seen to irritate the prime minster with the way he oversees the Commons chamber, said it was not up to David Cameron to adjudicate parliament.

He said: "The team captain cannot also be the referee."

Bercow also had harsh words for some of his critics in the media, who he said were "third tier scribblers" operating "not in the field of political analysis and commentary, but light entertainment".

He said that while their "opinions and burblings are of great interest to them and a select gathering" their "utterances are abosltuly of no interest to me whatsoever."

And he said while he usually did not concern himself with what was written in the press, there had been occasions where it had impacted on his family.

He recalled one unnamed "nasty and unfair" article in the Daily Mail that had upset his mother. He said he advised her to simply buy another newspaper.

The Speaker also slammed critics of his wife Sally for engaging in "low grade, substandard, downmarket, music hall drivel".

Bercow, who was first elected to parliament as MP for Buckingham in 1997, was initially seen as being on the far-right of the party.

"When I first started out in politics I was, what you might describe as, a hard right Conservative," he said.

"I espoused the principles very forcefully, I believed in a brand of Conservatism that was deeply Thatcherite and from time-to-time, even to the right of Mrs Thatcher.

"Over the years I mellowed. There is no denying or hiding the fact that over the years I moved from well on the right of the Conservative Party, much much more to its left, and therefore to the centre of the poltical spectrum."