CRITICISM by Tory MPs of Commons Speaker John Bercow’s fully accurate comments about Donald Trump centre on allegations of hypocrisy and infringement of political neutrality implicit in his post.
The Speaker’s duty to be even-handed to British MPs does not extend to taking a vow of silence when he suspects that the historic Westminster Hall could be used as a backdrop for Theresa May’s surrender to Trump’s charms.
May, who, like many of her MPs, expressed her distaste of Trump earlier, is so keen to ingratiate herself with the US president now that there seems no limit to what she will offer.
Bercow’s responsibility is to defend House of Commons integrity not to fall silent as May’s fawning ingratiation embarrasses not only her government but all British citizens.
Tory backbencher Nadhim ZahawI opted for the hypocrisy ploy, noting that the Speaker had invited Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Emir of Kuwait to address MPs. In fact, neither spoke in Westminster Hall, being accommodated in the Royal Gallery.
The real issue, however, is not what Bercow has done in the past but whether his stand over Trump is justified. This ought to be an open-and-shut question. The vile racism, sexism and Islamophobia the US president espoused during his election campaign, and since, has to be countered openly.
Those who accuse the Speaker of “playing to the gallery” when an invitation has not yet been issued are feigning naivety.
Who would doubt that, but for Bercow’s statement, May would have invited the US president in due course to address MPs in Westminster Hall, landing Parliament with a done deal?
His prompt action has saved the PM from demeaning herself and everyone else in Britain who does not regard our government’s prime duty as polishing the inflated ego of any White House incumbent.
FORMER Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher championed a “property-owning democracy” in the early 1980s when she projected an image of council tenants buying their homes at subsidised prices.
It mirrored a similar propaganda image of a “share-owning democracy” as the Tories flogged off public corporations, offering special deals to small shareholders. Both images have turned into mirages as many owners and shareholders, by choice or necessity, took short-term profit over long-term possession.
Institutional shareholders now dominate the privatised public corporations while private home ownership reached a peak in 2003 at 71 per cent and has since declined to 64 per cent, the lowest percentage since 1986. No less than 40 per cent of local authority properties bought under right-to-buy legislation are now privately rented at much higher rates than if still council-owned. No wonder even Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid admits that the housing market in Britain is broken.
Therein lies the major problem — that the basic human need of a home to live in, whether rented or owner-occupied, is treated as a capitalist commodity, with private profit the deciding criterion.
This benefits landowners, construction combines, estate agents and private landlords because supply shortages deliver higher price, rentals and commissions. This is exacerbated by the practice of advertising recently completed properties for sale, especially in London, to overseas buyers only.
Labour’s demand, voiced by Jeremy Corbyn and shadow housing secretary John Healey, that the government must back a massive council housebuilding campaign is undeniable. Together with effective regulation of the private rented sector, this can help the most desperate people, especially low-paid workers.
Reliance on market forces to deliver affordable homes has failed. It’s time for a new approach.
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