18 March 2020, The Tablet

Him, himself, he

Him, himself, he

Last Orders! – John Bercow
Photo: PA, Stefan Rousseau


(Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 464 PP; £20)
Tablet bookshop price £18 • Tel 020 7799 4064

One of my favourite examples of the kind of narcissism which so many career politicians unknowingly exhibit came from a former Labour MP, now long dead. Responding to a charge of being self-obsessed, he countered, “Well, I don’t think I’m an egotist.” It is a phrase which sums up the whole tenor of John Bercow’s autobiography.

This is a book in which, alas, it is only too evident that every word was written by the man himself. The reader can hear the resonance of the occupant of the Speaker’s chair who has won such fame for his declamatory style that his self-important “Order! Order!” is apparently a popular mobile ringtone in Germany. He is there in every paragraph and he makes quite sure that you do not miss him. It is never enough for him to state a fact, even if it is a commonplace; he needs to take personal possession of it. He does not write, for example, that Jack Straw was highly regarded across the Commons’ chamber, but “I always felt that Jack Straw was highly regarded …”

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