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Summary

Unspeakable is John Bercow's characteristically forthright and incisive account of his unique vantagepoint into British politics. Containing verdicts on many of the leading figures of this era, from Tony Blair to David Cameron, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson, Bercow explores and explains the ways in which he has sought to democratise the business of Parliament, using the Speakership to champion the rights of backbench MPs and hold the government to account.

In his own words, 'I made friends and enemies alike, but from start to finish I sought to do the right, rather than the convenient, thing and to be a decent public servant.' From the start, Bercow tackles head-on his regretted fascination with definably right-wing attitudes and describes his inexorable march to more progressive thinking since his election as Member of Parliament for Buckingham in 1997. It is essential listening for anyone interested in the business of politics and how our democracy is - or should be - run, with fascinating insights into Bercow's family background and early interest in politics.

When Bercow retired as Speaker of the House of Commons on 31st October, he had become one of the most recognisable and iconoclastic figures in British politics, and had created a vacancy of huge importance. As Speaker since 2009 he had a ringside seat during one of the most febrile periods in modern British history, presiding over the Commons while it had to contend with key issues such as austerity in the light of the financial crisis; the coalition government between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats; and of course the most intractable problem of all - how to deliver on the 2016 referendum decision that Britain should leave the EU.

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©2020 John Bercow (P)2020 Orion Publishing Group

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Pompous

I had a relatively positive view of John Burcow before listening to this autobiography. Having watched his performance as speaker, I found it in enlivening and amusing. Although I had read about the allegations of bullying, I had reached no particular judgement, and if anything, was a little sceptical about it. This book however has changed my mind substantially and not in the way Bercow likely intended. This book has neither substance nor humour. It is self congratulatory and overwhelmingly pompous. He assassinates the characters of his fellow MPs, not by reference to their acts, but by pronouncing judgement on their numerous character flaws as he sees them. He clearly loathes his Conservative colleagues and yet has chosen to stay in the Conservative party. He has hardly a bad word to say about any labour MP and has a great love for Corbyn. This stand is strange until you consider his ambition to join the House of Lords and his reliance on labour support to do so. It is transparently disingenuous. Overall, this book read as spiteful payback against those he sees as his enemies. I was fully prepared to be entertained by an irreverent and eccentric account, and assumed that Bercow’s bluster hid intellect and quirky charm. I’m afraid that this biography shows but there is little substance beneath the superficial bonhomie and a great desire for power and control. Not a pleasant read in any way.

28 people found this helpful

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Truth

If you're signed up to the message that Brexit is brilliant and nothing bad can ever come of it because you're not permitted to criticise it or make any negative associations due to the fact it flies in the face of Tory assertions that this is the answer to all of our domestic troubles, you probably won't like this book. However, if you're wondering why the polemic that the EU is undemocratic still has currency when it is seemingly acceptable for Britain to act as undemocratically as it so wishes and to invoke the importance of democracy rhetoric when it suits, then reject it when it does not suit, you'll definitely enjoy this book.

11 people found this helpful

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“Some might call me a lefty liberal....

“And they’d be right” is probably the best quote in this book since it underlies the entire story and yet throughout in his pompous, arrogant way John Brecon goes into great detail about how is a defender of parliament, happy to override precedent when it suits him and to follow precedent when it suits him depending on the situation. How he would refuse Trump the honour of speaking to parliament yet let’s the Amir of Kuwait do so or the Chinese president do so. He excuses this by saying that he now regrets that. I have no doubt that the author truly believes all he says in this book but it comes across more as a series of contradictory principles and his lefty liberal bias comes across strongly..... which basically sums up his time as Speaker.

9 people found this helpful

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Unspeakably Bad - Pugnacious Simpleton Bercow

Gosh where to even begin. The delivery is pugnacious, tiring, belligerent, and deeply uninspiring. Like listening to an arrogant angry post master shouting into the void. I feel for anyone whom had to listen to this man in the real world. The writing is plodding, short-sighted, completely unselfaware. Ugly sentence construction, ugly thoughts, ugly delivery. I bought this and intended to listen with an open mind, but very quickly Bercow's innate repulsive qualities become overwhelming. Self-centred, talentless, pathologically inept, arrogant, brazenly assuming the listeners complaisance, when in fact the listener is utterly repulsed by every facet. It's not even worth going to the effort to elucidate further. Pock-marked Pygmy of a man on the inside and outside. AVOID

7 people found this helpful

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A lengthy failure to justify himself

You learn so much about anyone from their autobiography. Here is the biography of a child plagued by acne and his lack of height who grows in to a man who briefly embraces racism, cannot properly hold down a job, cannot get selected as an MP and who finally experiences two pieces of good fortune. He gets selected for a safe seat and then gets the post of speaker. It was a Tory's turn and Labour and the other parties provided the support to annoy the Conservatives, hardly any of whom voted for him. This turns him into a bumptious, entitled fool who believes he is always right and who manages to annoy almost everyone. How he goes on and on about not being a bully when it seems that is a very minority opinion. How he patronises in his slow explanation of basic parliamentary procedure. He gives his view of the recent political events and then gives out his "awards" to those he respected and writes insulting condemnations of those he didn't, Andrea Leadson, Teresa May and ("call me Dave") Cameron suffering the most. Ends at its best with some interesting thoughts on the nation's future but is far too long and it is difficult to like or respect the smug narrator.

6 people found this helpful

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Make your own mind up...

when I first read reviews for this book they were extremely polar in that most people either love the book totally for its candor or hated it for its candor and lies. I noted on the advice of Amazon that that there was something wrong with the reviews for this book and then I realised that most people reviewing it had not read it and were simply expressing their view on the man rather than his book. my advice is to read it or listen to it as I did on Audible. John Bercow has a particular Style that some listeners may not enjoy it but at the end of it it I felt enlightened of parliamentary procedure and and realised there was so much more to him than the right-wing press would have you believe. it's a good story and his thumbnail sketches of various members of Parliament over the years seem fair enough but then it's difficult to read or listen to anything regarding politics and keep it isolated from your own views. But don't take my word for it...

5 people found this helpful

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No holds barred

Whether you love or loathe John Bercow, you have to respect the blunt honesty in the way that he has approached the subjects laid bare in his book. He has not been afraid to promote his successes as a person, but neither has he been shy to admit to the errors that he has made and apologise for them. His views on his colleagues and government policies are certainly not to everyone's taste, but they are his honest opinion and quite possibly, that of many others too. This book will appeal to many who are interested in UK politics and the functioning of Westminster, and will possibly rile the 'Dyed in the wool' Brexit supporter. For those without blinkered political views in these strange times for the UK, this book should appeal - even if just to help give a little broadening of the whole picture. I had not been a massive fan of John Bercow whilst in the chair, though my respect for him grew with his handling of the Brexit fiasco. His book has allowed me to increase my level of respect for him and I hope that others will feel the same if they read/listen to this book. Many of those that have given the lowest review score, quite probably have either not read/listened to the book or were never in the mind to give a positive review due to hard bias towards the man and his methods! I would urge doubters to give the book a proper chance and to make their own options once completed, rather than to take it for read, that you should not bother! Controversial, but honest and overall an eye opener about the people that we vote in and trust to run the UK. It will make you think carefully about who you should help to elect next time around.

4 people found this helpful

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Brilliant and grating in equal measure

For those interested in politics, this is essential. Bercow is a natural orator and his delivery is compelling. For comic value, his impressions of parliamentary colleagues are superb; quite the mimic. On the flip side, he shows very little self-awareness and comes across as someone who is clearly blind to any personal flaws whatsoever, while simultaneously ruthlessly attacking the character of others. Not a pleasant trait. But, that aside, a fascinating character and a political titan of our age. I shall listening to this again in due course. He would be quite the dinner guest, albeit I suspect others may struggle to get a word in edge ways... This will be a text for future politics students.

4 people found this helpful

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Needs to be a Lorrd

Great listen without doubt the greatest speaker of the modern age. He took parliament to the people

3 people found this helpful

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  • 24-04-20

unspeakable? fantastically audible

Loved it. Did not struggle to finish in the slightest. Wished it was even longer frankly. It has variety opinions predictions self reflection values principles clarifications.

3 people found this helpful