Oh, how he loved his moment in the limelight. How he preened in the glow of self-importance as he strutted his stuff. Puffed up as a farmyard rooster, Speaker of the Commons John Bercow delivered his considered verdict on the American President: Donald Trump's a racist! Donald Trump's a sexist! Donald Trump's an all-round stinker who shouldn't be allowed anywhere near our hallowed Parliament! DUMP TRUMP!

Well, I paraphrase somewhat, but on the Opposition benches at least, there were plenty who would agree with every word. "A good moment for the Commons," gushed Labour's Harriet Harman. "Well said, John Bercow," opined her party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. "The right decision," agreed the Lib Dems' Tim Farron.

And there in a nutshell is the most glaring example of hypocrisy on stilts that you'll ever see.

You don't have to like or admire Donald Trump to be appalled by Bercow's near hysterical rant or the knee-jerk response of the political mediocrities on the Opposition benches. The President strikes me as unpleasant, bombastic, worryingly volatile and almost laughably vain. His temporary ban on Middle Eastern migrants was abysmally mishandled.

But does it really merit the worldwide explosion of outrage, the marches, the petitions, and outright insults from pompous little virtue-signallers like John Bercow? I wonder. After all, the seven countries affected by the Trump ban were first named by the sainted Barack Obama, when he imposed his own ban, back in 2011, to counter the terrorist threat. There wasn't a peep of protest from anybody then – and certainly no attacks on Obama as an anti-Muslim bigot.

Moreover, the Bercow who can't stomach the thought of a Trump visit is the same man who entertained some of North Korea's nastiest tyrants to tea in the Speaker's House in 2009. In fact he's been a welcoming host to a whole gallery of despots, dictators and the dubious, all of them representing regimes with a rotten record on human rights, from the Emir of Kuwait to the President of Indonesia and the leader of China Xi Jinping.

And you know what? Mr Bercow was absolutely right. It's part of his job as Speaker to push the boat out, just as it's part of the Queen's job to be gracious to visitors even if they're brutal or corrupt, even if their hands are steeped in blood. We don't invite people on state visits because we like the cut of their jib, but because governments think it's in the long term interests of Britain.

That's why, over the years, we've flown the flags, tuned up the bands and staged elaborate parades for some visitors who make Donald Trump look like a plaster saint: the murderous President Mobutu of Zaire, the thuggish President Ceausescu of Romania, the appalling Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. The list goes on and on. And while we may now look back on these visits with some embarrassment, they seemed a good idea at the time.

It's part of his job as Speaker to push the boat out, just as it's part of the Queen's job to be gracious to visitors even if they're brutal or corrupt, even if their hands are steeped in blood.

So what makes this American President a unique exception to that pragmatic rule? If Ministers, who are answerable to Parliament and the public, judge that Donald Trump should be accorded a state visit, why should Bercow insult him? He's the leader of our closest and most important ally. He is avowedly pro-British, unlike his vastly overrated predecessor Barack Obama. He wants us to make a success of Brexit, again unlike Obama.

Sure, we can – and do – disagree with his policies. We might even change or modify them if we engage with his administration, which is why Theresa May issued her invitation in the first place. The normal processes of diplomacy, especially between close friends and allies, can be hugely effective.

But Bercow, off his own bat, wants to go his own clodhopping way. He obviously hates Trump, doesn't give a damn for our relations with the United States and plays to the gallery instead. He loves the sound of his own voice, adores the unthinking applause of the mob and wallows in the warm waters of gesture politics. In his overweening arrogance he didn't even bother to consult his opposite number in the House of Lords before issuing his anti-Trump fatwa.

This isn't the behaviour of a proper Speaker. This is an attention-seeking, self-regarding stunt that demeans the great office he holds and brings Parliament itself into disrepute. The sooner he goes, the better.


Michael Toner is a former Fleet Street political editor and co-author of a series of Bluffers' Guides on Europe. Follow : @toner