Bercow accused of ‘defending the indefensible’ in furious Commons bust-up
John Bercow has been accused of "defending the indefensible" to the "fag end" of his tenure as Speaker during a furious Commons bust-up.
The Speaker became embroiled in the row with long-term nemesis Andrew Bridgen as MPs debated a report to suspend Labour's Keith Vaz, who was found to have "expressed willingness" to purchase cocaine for others by the Standards Committee.
The tense exchanges came after MPs had spent almost three hours paying tribute to the Speaker as he prepared to stand down after 10 years in the chair.
Mr Bridgen noted he originally made the complaint about Mr Vaz to the Standards Committee before appearing to suggest Mr Bercow should have acted earlier on other allegations connected to the MP for Leicester East.
The Speaker interrupted Mr Bridgen and at length informed him about how these were not matters for the chair to get involved in given the other procedures in place.
But Mr Bridgen said the Speaker had misunderstood his point and in fact he was going to "extol" his decision not to get involved.
As he tried to raise other concerns connected to Mr Vaz, the Speaker again intervened and starkly warned Mr Bridgen to conclude his remarks.
In their final exchange, Mr Bridgen told the Commons: "It's clear to me and it will be clear to the public that to the fag end of your tenure in that chair you are defending the indefensible and your very close relationship with (Mr Vaz) – the House can come to its own conclusions, the Standards Committee has come to its own conclusions and, Mr Speaker, the public will come to theirs."
Mr Bercow said he was sure the public would come to their own conclusions, adding: "He can try to smear me, he will get the square root of nowhere."
The Speaker added he was "friendly" with Mr Vaz as well as Conservative former ministers Sir Christopher Chope and Sir David Lidington, before naming other MPs from different parties.
He added: "I am friendly with a great many members having served in this place for 22 years, I do not get involved in matters appertaining to standards, there is a machinery for deliberation on those matters in the form of a parliamentary standards commissioner and a committee."
"They deal with those matters."
Mr Bercow said Mr Bridgen had appeared to contradict himself within minutes, adding: "I'm not trying to defend the conduct of (Mr Vaz).
"What I'm doing on behalf of and in support of this House is defending colleagues, members of the public, the integrity of an independent process.
"If (Mr Bridgen) can't or won't grasp that fact, with the very greatest of respect to him or such respect as I can muster, that says more about him than it does about me."