HUGH ASH

Can Bercow make or break Brexit?

AT least the back-page headlines in our national newspapers gave some cause for joy in another week of otherwise turgid dismay, frustration and confusion.

Jesus scores and De Gea saves, they chorused, so both sides of the great blue and red Manchester divide had something to crow about — a win-win situation, which is more than can be said for the lose-lose gloom engulfing the rest of Brexit-wracked Britain.

“How much worse can it get?” queried my wife, half rhetorically. According to my Manchester City fanatic son, it can. Perish the thought for City fans, but Liverpool might win the Premier League.

Since he’s happily ensconced in San Francisco, Brexit is a B-movie stateside, the main news being the Trump-induced shutdown of a huge chunk of America’s civil service.

However, there’s no consolation in hearing of another nation’s plight, when ours is up the creek without a paddle.

It’s barely conceivable that Britain has come to the state of political paralysis, with MPs snarling, sniping and storming at colleagues, meanwhile clutching at straws in manic efforts to bust the perfect storm of what I’ll now dub “Brexlock”.

Even Justin Welby, the Remain-voting Archbishop of Canterbury, waded in, calling for the junking of a no-deal departure from the EU, on the non-denominational basis that it would be “immoral” since such a move would harm the poorest and most vulnerable.

Underscoring the national crisis, he also said he was praying for all politicians — “in their most extraordinarily difficult job” — perhaps forgetting that they were the sinners responsible for getting us into this mess in the first place.

Meanwhile without wishing to risk accusations of blasphemy, I don’t even think invoking Christianity’s saviour will rescue us at this historical moment of impassioned soul searching.

At least the archbishop raised his head above the pulpit, which is more than can be said for the country’s other religious leaders and community representatives.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, for instance, has been noticeable shtum, as have others who claim to speak for Anglo-Jewry.

This begs questions, because — apart from Jews being an integral part of the Britain’s body politick — there are some quintessential issues at play that could particularly impact on Jewry.

The price of kosher food imports is expected to soar and increased government spending cuts on social services are likely to crank up extra pressure on Jewish charities, as more people — especially the elderly — are forced to seek help.

And, if Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling’s prediction is to be believed, a non-Brexit or a hard Brexit would usher in raging public discontent, with an upsurge in far-right violence when migrants, Jews and Muslims would be targets.

In other words, plenty of subsidiary, though important, issues that should give Britain’s Jews pause for thought — and a voice. One Jew, however, continues to be in the thick of the Brexit brouhaha: John Bercow.

In his final term as Speaker of the Commons, Bercow — elected in 2009 and the first Jew to hold the office — has regularly attracted controversy, none more so than in his recent pronouncements, which amounted to handing powers to MPs overriding those of Theresa May’s lame-duck government.

Only time will determine whether the intervention of this grandson of Romanian immigrants will have been Brexit’s making or breaking.

Whichever of the two transpires to be the case, Bercow can rightly claim a place in history.

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