ANDREW PIERCE: No red carpet for defector John Bercow

ANDREW PIERCE’s Labour conference diary: No red carpet for defector John Bercow

You might have thought Labour’s most high-profile defector in a generation would get the VIP treatment when he made his first appearance at the party conference last night. But not a bit of it.

If former Speaker John Bercow expected the red carpet, he was sorely disappointed. 

Despite predictable applause as he ripped into the Tories at a fringe event outside the main conference hall, there was no sign of leader Sir Keir Starmer to welcome him, no photographs with party big-wigs.

Time has not been so kind to Bercow since he lost the trappings of his office as Speaker

Diehard Remainer Bercow, who quit the Tories during the summer after more than 40 years complaining they had become ‘populist’, is the first Speaker in more than 200 years not to enter the House of Lords.

He was widely thought to have demeaned the historic office in his political machinations to block Brexit. 

Worse still, he is the subject of toxic and unresolved bullying allegations: the former Commons Clerk made a formal complaint against him last January, as did a former Black Rod, the most senior official in the Commons.

Time has not been so kind to Bercow since he lost the trappings of his office as Speaker. 

He looks older, his hair whiter and he has virtually sunk from public view beyond shouting his catchphrase ‘Orderrrrrrr’ on the website Cameo for £83 a time.

A source in Starmer’s camp tells me: ‘We are keeping him at a distance because there’s a lot of unresolved issues about Bercow.’

Lord Mandelson, slippery architect of New Labour, wandering alone disconsolately in the conference centre. 

Mandelson, 67, has let it be known he would be happy to serve in a Starmer Cabinet – but yesterday no one seemed to realise quite who he was.

Labour MP Rupa Huq, speaking at a fringe event on ‘what I wish I’d known at 20 about money’, points out there can be advantages to a fuel crisis. ‘I was conceived during the three-day week when the lights were out,’ she reveals. 

In his autobiography Always Red, former Unite general secretary Len McCluskey writes how his firebrand Left-wing politics were forged in the Liverpool dock strikes and the 1968 ‘Paris revolution’. 

He wanted to join those who brought the Paris economy to a halt. But he admits he never got beyond London. 

He and a friend bashed each other with sticks ‘to give themselves convincing barricade wounds’. Well, that’s one kind of strike his enemies approve of. 

‘Poppy’ Burnham pruned

Last night Burnham was still the bookies’ favourite to succeed Starmer

Another Labour man denied the joys of addressing a packed conference hall is Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, sidelined at fringe events.

So why is he being contained so much? ‘It’s a case of tall poppy syndrome,’ one Labour member mutters to me. ‘Starmer doesn’t want to give a high-profile speaking spot to the man many of us think would be a better leader.’

Last night Burnham was still the bookies’ favourite to succeed Starmer.

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