Politicians kick off a dirty war at your peril

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Brace yourself for what threatens (or promises, depending on your point of view) to be the dirtiest general election campaign in living memory.

Even before the official campaign starting pistol has been fired, David Cameron launched a withering personal attack on Ed Miliband, the Labour leader. And we can be sure Miliband will hit back with as much venom as he can command.

Mr Cameron excuses himself by saying the personal is national, implying it is fair game to go for his opponent’s jugular.But the Tories need to be careful. Just remember what happened when they mounted a “demon eyes” campaign against Tony Blair in 1997. It led to the Conservatives’ most humiliating defeat anyone could remember. We can look forward, nevertheless, to a month of robust mud-slinging. This will be widely deplored, but there are also those who believe it will enliven the campaign no end.

Meanwhile, I find it odd that Jeremy Paxman should have been denounced as “arrogant” for the way he dealt with the two party leaders on TV last week. He showed the short, sharp question can tie politicians in knots far more effectively than long, rambling interrogations.

I cannot for the life of me see what was so wrong and unworthy of MPs trying to implement a plan which would make it easier to dump an unpopular Speaker, such as the present one, John Bercow.

The attempt - which had Government backing - failed, but the traducing of William Hague, Leader of the Commons, for his part in the plan, was a disgrace. At present, the abilities of MPs to oust a Speaker are complicated and very difficult to enforce. So why not try to change them?

Mr Bercow is bad-tempered and sometimes discourteous and even downright rude to MPs, and is possibly one of the most unpopular Speakers for years, although he has helped back-benchers raise urgent issues in the House. He once described an MP as being as boring as he is boorish. And once he even abruptly halted the Prime Minister in his tracks. And he has seriously upset some senior official figures at Westminster.

He became Speaker largely because Labour virtually voted for him en masse because they knew it would upset the Tories (Bercow’s then party) who generally hated him. Spite is no way to run a Parliament. No wonder so many MPs would like to see the back of him. Some might even describe him as a bore and boorish.