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Last Updated: Monday, 1 November, 2004, 11:23 GMT
Profile: John Bercow
John Bercow
Mr Bercow is not unknown for his forthright opinions
John Bercow first became involved in politics as a teenager having attended a school in Margaret Thatcher's Finchley constituency.

He was involved in the right-wing Monday club becoming secretary of its immigration and repatriation section.

He later left saying some of its members views were "unpalatable".

The MP for Buckingham has since undergone something of a political journey finding himself on the socially liberal wing of the Tory Party.

Politically active at Essex University Mr Bercow went on to become the national chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students (FCS).

The organisation was closed down in 1986 by Norman Tebbit - who, alongside Mrs Thatcher, was another of Mr Bercow's political heroes - due to its radical stances and sometimes raucous behaviour.

Aitken's adviser

After a short spell at Hambros Bank, Mr Bercow embarked upon a career in public affairs and lobbying, although politics remained his principal passion.

He became a Lambeth councillor aged 23 and stood for the safe Labour seat of Motherwell South at the 1987 general election.

He then served as the youngest ever deputy leader of the Tory group in Lambeth.

He stood against Dawn Primarolo in Bristol South at the 1992 general election and by 1995 he had left his job to become special adviser to Jonathan Aitken, then chief secretary to the Treasury.

Helicopter trips

After Mr Aitken's resignation, he was taken on by Virginia Bottomley, by then national heritage secretary.

His selection for the safe Conservative seat of Buckingham in February 1996 had a degree of theatre about it.

He was short listed for two selections on the same day - the other being Surrey Heath - and he hired a helicopter in order to be able to attend both meetings.

He has said that it was "the best 1,000 I have ever spent".

In the Commons he became an assiduous attender of question time each afternoon.

Political journey

In 1999, he joined the Tory frontbench as a junior spokesman on education and employment under Theresa May.

In 2000 he joined Ann Widdecombe's home affairs team, where he remained up until the 2001 election.

It was during this time that Mr Bercow embarked upon a political journey not dissimilar to that of Michael Portillo, to whom he is politically very close.

The previously staunch right-winger began to embrace social liberalism.

In February 2000, barely three months after Mr Portillo's return to the Commons, he changed his mind on the question of reducing the gay age of consent to 16, and spoke in the Commons debate on the issue, admitting that his previous stance had been wrong.

Allegiance

In a New Statesman interview in November 2000, he undermined the views of his boss, Ann Widdecombe, by saying that a draconian clampdown on cannabis smokers would be "transparently absurd".

In the aftermath of the 2001 general election, along with vast majority of so-called "mods", he immediately declared support for Mr Portillo's leadership challenge.

After that bid failed, he transferred his allegiance to Iain Duncan Smith, who then rewarded him with a job as shadow chief secretary.

However, his modernising tendencies continued apace from within the shadow cabinet.

He led calls for Tory MPs to be banned from being members of the Monday Club.

He also spoke out in favour abolishing Section 28 and urged the party to become a "champion of gay rights".

Whip

In January 2002, he told his constituency association in a New Year message that the party was "in worse shape than ever before in my lifetime or yours".

He said that many voters saw the Tories as "racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-youth".

If the party was to stand a chance of winning the next general election, it had to change its ways, he said.

Mr Bercow noticeably abstained on the three line whip opposing gay and unmarried adoption in May 2002.

In the reshuffle of July 2002, he was moved from the job of shadow chief secretary to become a shadow work and pensions minister under David Willetts.

Prissy?

While the party claimed this was a sideways move, to many observers it was seen as a demotion.

He quit Iain Duncan Smith's frontbench in November 2002 over the way Tory MPs were instructed to vote against allowing unmarried couples to adopt children.

That came just a month before his marriage to Sally Illman - a Labour sympathiser to whom he became engaged earlier in the year - and two months before his 40th birthday.

The following year he told a Tory fringe meeting at the Conservative conference that there was a much-justified perception that the Tories were rural, provincial and "somewhat prissy".

When Michael Howard became leader in 2003 Mr Bercow was given a frontbench position, international development, but lost his job in September.




SEE ALSO:
John Bercow
21 Oct 02 |  Politics
Head-to-head: Gay adoption
16 Oct 02 |  UK News
Tories split on 'gay rights'
04 Oct 02 |  Politics



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