Published: 19th February 2014
The Commons Speaker has written to David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg warning the public risk being alienated from democracy by the ya-boo nature of the weekly confrontation.
But Tory MPs hit back, accusing Mr Bercow of ‘whining’ and losing control of the Commons because of his ‘bias’ towards Labour, adding that one of his predecessors, Baroness Boothroyd, had never felt the need to complain.
It follows MailOnline’s revelation that members of the public have written to Mr Bercow criticsing him directly for his handling of PMQs.
Some viewers accused the Speaker of treating the Prime Minister ‘like a two-year-old’ and ‘appalling behaviour’ in letting Labour ‘get away with saying what they want’.
Despite PMQs being the only regular event in parliament to gain any signiciant number of viewers, Mr Bercow has railed against the wall of noise that faces Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband in particular as they clash over the despatch box.
But Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke compared Mr Bercow’s troubles to predecessor Bettey Boothroyd who he said had ‘no need to resort to whining’ while Sarah Wollaston said it was up to the Speaker to not call people responsible for heckling.
Mr Bercow’s letter to the party leaders comes in the wake of a string of boisterous and loud exchanges which, according to a recent study, is alienating the public.
But he also claimed ‘good female’ MPs were leaving Parliament – with the charged comment that they were ‘less inclined to screech and shout’.
A Hansard Society report revealed that 67 per cent of respondents felt ‘there is too much party political points-scoring instead of answering the question’.
Only 12 per cent agreed that ‘PMQs makes me proud of Parliament’.
Mr Bercow said he was not expecting MPs to behave like ‘Trappist monks’ and appreciated ‘passions will be aroused’ in the Commons.
But he added: ‘There are people who think culturally the atmosphere is very male, very testosterone-fuelled and, in the worst cases, [full] of yobbery and public school twittishness’.
The Speaker told The Independent that he regretted that ‘some very good female members of Parliament on both sides’ are leaving the Commons at the next election, and added that women were generally ‘less inclined to screech and shout’.
However MPs suggested the solution to the problem lay with Mr Bercow himself.
Tory Alec Shelbrooke wrote on Twitter: ‘Bercow needs to look in the mirror. Betty [Boothroyd] never had the need to resort to whining. His biased approach is why he’s lost control of PMQ’s.’
Sarah Wollaston, Tory MP for Totnes, said: ‘Speaker could just stop calling the worst PMQ hecklers & ban the crap planted “helpful” questions.’
Douglas Carswell, Conservative MP for Clacton, also wrote on Twitter: ‘New Bercow doctrine for PMQs?: narks never called. Planted questioners told to sit down.’
Others on Twitter were divided. Walaa Idris said: ‘Speaker Bercow’s complaints about heckling MPs at PMQs doesn’t make any sense when he has the power to decide which questions are asked.’
Marcus Stead said: ‘What is John Bercow talking about? PMQs would be very dull without any jeering. Most views [sic] quite like it.’
Last year MailOnline revealed public disgust at ‘braying’ MPs during Prime Minister’s Questions is laid bare today, in a catalogue of angry letters to Mr Bercow which branded them morons, t**ts and a throwback to the 19th century.
Dozens of complaints were sent to the Speaker’s office from September to November about the behaviour of heckling, insulting and guffawing MPs in the House of Commons.
While the postbag fell short of the ‘bucket loads’ which Mr Bercow boasted of receiving every week, it revealed some of the anger at Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband.
Mr Bercow has been dogged by bad publicity since taking up the role as Speaker, and he is seen by Tory MPs as being biased towards the Labour Party.
Letters, emails and web messages repeatedly accused MPs of behaving like football hooligans, naughty schoolchildren, ‘rowdy buffoons’, ‘morons’ and ‘braying donkeys’ who do not live in the real world.
It is claimed MPs behave like 19th century ‘public schoolboys’ who think they are still in the Bullingdon Club, the Oxford University dining society which counted Mr Cameron and George Osborne as members and is famed for smashing up restaurants.
However Mr Bercow himself also faced criticism, with one letter warning ‘revolution will be inevitable’ if he is unable to act to curb the noise.
A couple of letters even chided the Speaker for complaining that the public do not like the noisy hullabaloo every Wednesday at midday.
One email said: ‘I do not find the noise levels a problem at all; the microphones in the chamber do an excellent job of amplifying the voices of the speakers.
‘I would far rather listen to PMQs with the barracking and noise from the backbenchers, than having the Speaker interrupt the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition when they are in mid-sentence.’