Bercow's 'golden bladder' wows MPs
There was another running theme in yesterday’s marathon debate on whether or not we should launch military action in Syria: the stamina of John Bercow.
The Speaker opened proceedings at 1130am, he was there for the vote results at 1030pm, and he did not leave his seat in between.
Barry Gardiner was the first to notice that we were witnessing something special when, a paltry seven hours in, he said:
“I applaud the fact that you have spent the entirety of this debate in the Chair. I also admire your bladder.”
That was followed immediately by Tom Tugendhat, who took a more holistic approach to Bercow’s stamina.
“I praise your endurance, Mr Speaker, rather than any part of your anatomy.”
Helen Whately modestly continued: “
May I pay tribute to you, Mr Speaker, for your incredible stamina this afternoon, which I have been unable to match?”
Shortly afterwards, Alison McGovern and Natalie McGarry joined others in “expressing my admiration” for the Speaker and “admiring your fortitude” respectively.
If anybody thought Bercow might be flagging as the clock approached nine, he put that to bed as he slapped down Philip Hammond for “disconcerting and discourteous chuntering”.
Having presided over the voting process, it was time for Bercow to really lap it up.
The SNP’s Philippa Whitford raised a point of order after the divisions, apparently concerned about the medical implications of today’s debate.
“May I thank you for going through all these hours of debate, and as a doctor may I say that that is not terribly healthy?”
Bercow, with a reckless disregard for his own wellbeing, responded:
“I take note of her health advice, but there have to be exceptions and I wanted to be here to hear every speech.”
Finally David Winnick followed up with his own point of order.
“May I put on record that it is unlikely that any previous Speaker has ever done what you have done today: sit throughout without a single break? I think the whole House should congratulate you.”
And finally Bercow was overcome by as MPs cheered Winnick and Whitford’s praise.
To Winnick he said:
“I am very flattered and honoured by what the Honourable Gentleman has said. I sought no such compliment, but the Honourable Gentleman first came into the House 49 years ago and he knows I hold him in the highest esteem, and I thank him for that. The credit is that of the House, however, for the way it has conducted itself today. I appreciate what the Honourable Gentleman said. Indeed; I will bank it while I can.”
At this morning's Business Statement, the SNP's Pete Wishart gave the Speaker a new nickname - one that must surely stick: “It’s not for nothing that you’ve gained the title of ‘golden bladder’."
If Hilary Benn’s speech has taken most of the plaudits, there was at least one other epic Commons performance yesterday.
Not least due to the limitations of recent improvements to the House's procedures.