Parliament was first broadcast on radio at the same time as I acquired my very first 'music centre' as they were called in those days. A chipboard-plated slab with a plastic cover, a record deck and cassette player on the top and controls and radio tuning window on the front, with a pair of little chipboard cased speakers. It may have been low tech but by God it put me straight at the centre of our national politics in full stereo FM. George Thomas was in the chair, and as the historic Callaghan VoC debate went out live, the debate in which Callaghan half-sang a Marie Lloyd ditty and Mrs T called him 'Frit'. Callaghan lost by 311 to 310 and the rest is history. George Thomas was magnificent. I was transfixed, and in thrall thereafter to the wonder of our Parliament. There was one factor of which I think I and all others were unaware at the time - as Wiki tells it
In the BBC documentary "A Parliamentary Coup" it was revealed that Bernard Weatherill played a critical role in the defeat of the government in the vote of confidence. As the vote loomed, Labour's deputy Chief Whip, Walter Harrison approached Weatherill to enforce the pairing convention that if a sick MP from the Government could not vote, an MP from the Opposition would abstain to compensate. Weatherill said that pairing had never been intended for votes on Matters of Confidence that meant the life or death of the Government and it would be impossible to find a Conservative MP who would agree to abstain. However, after a moment's reflection, he offered that he himself would abstain, because he felt it would be dishonourable to break his word with Harrison. Harrison was so impressed by Weatherill's offer – which would have effectively ended his political career – that he released Weatherill from his obligation and so the Government fell by one vote on the agreement of gentlemen.Of course that same gentleman, Bernard Weatherill, took the seat as the next Speaker, and set standards of equity and probity in the chair that remain unsurpassed.
After Weatherill came Betty Boothroyd - ex Tiller Girl, and to date our only female Speaker. She brought a twinkle and a touch of humour to the chair in a way that in no wise diminished either her dignity, the authority of the Speaker or her command of the chamber. For the matters of her term, 1992 - 2000, she was perfect.
Then came Gorbals Mick, an inadequate and corrupt machine politician with little merit who sought to suppress, by power and bullying, the expenses scandal from reaching the press. And after Gorbals Mick the arsewipe, that sanctimonious dwarf Bercow. Two lousy Speakers, Bercow the very worst in my long memory and possibly in the life of our Parliament.
I could not help catch some of those oleaginous encomiums bleated from the benches yesterday at the diminutive cretin, who has devalued the office, shat on the accomplishments of former Speakers and corrupted the business of the house. How low have we sunk to tolerate such worthless trash at the heart of our democracy.