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Unspeakable

The Autobiography
Narrated by: John Bercow
Length: 18 hrs and 23 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (28 ratings)

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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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio on our Desktop Site.

©2020 John Bercow (P)2020 Orion Publishing Group

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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.

5 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.

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.

2 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.

1 person found this helpful

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Great Insight

Great insight into the political career of the Gent that in 2009 became the Speaker of the house of commons

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Must read for Brexit and politics nerds

Very well written and quite amusing. I think is a reasonable account for the past few years, although potentially with a slight pro Bercow bais, as exped