John Bercow has accused the government of “juvenile bed-wetting” over failing to get their chosen candidate, Chris Grayling, into a plum role. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was widely believed to want former transport secretary Mr Grayling to become the chairman of the body which oversees the work of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.
However, Dr Julian Lewis secured the job despite widespread expectation that Mr Grayling would receive the backing of the Conservative-dominated Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).
In response the Government removed the Tory whip from Mr Lewis. This punishment led to the Bercow’s heavy criticism. He also pointed out that the decision was down to the nine ISC committee members to elect the chair themselves – and the law forbids outside interference.
Mr Bercow accused the Tory whips, who kicked Dr Lewis out of the parliamentary party for his actions on Wednesday, of “throwing their toys out of the pram” and “juvenile bed-wetting”.
“They’ve picked on the wrong man here – they’re not going to outdo him,” he claimed.
“He’s quicker, he’s sharper, he’s brighter and he’s a person of unimpeachable integrity who will serve the committee and the House of Commons with distinction.”
“Chris Grayling manifestly was not qualified to discharge the responsibilities – he knows nothing particularly about intelligence and security,” he said.
“And nice chap though he is, his whole track record shows anything he touches turns to disaster.
“He is congenitally incapable of seeing a problem without making it very considerably worse.
“Frankly the government and the prime minister ought to know when they are beaten and back off.”
Bercow was backed by former Tory Cabinet minister and chairman of the ISC, Dominic Grieve, told the BBC: “What troubles me about this episode, quite apart from its utter absurdity, and now withrdawing the whip from Julian, who is indeed highly respected, is the mindset it gives about what on earth is going on in Downing Street.
“Why did they try to manipulate this process? They shouldn’t have done.
“The committee can only exist, the committee can only be respected… if it is seen to be non-partisan, and independent.”