David Cameron has been using the nuclear explosion of outrage that has greeted the Milly Dowler phone-hacking revelations as an opportunity to bury good news.  The prime minister announced this morning that Speaker Bercow is to be sent into exile. To Afghanistan. Now  we know why the Speaker’s wife, our Sal, has been seen recently wearing a sheet.

The curious announcement was made this morning that Mr Bercow is to participate in a UK-Afghanistan parliamentary exchange scheme.  The existence of  this part of the rich Anglo-Afghan heritage will, I think it is fair to say, have come as a surprise to most British parliamentarians, including the Speaker himself.  Now he is to be its beneficiary. Bercow will trade places with his opposite number in Afghanistan’s lower house, the Wolesi Jirga, Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi. Mr Ibrahimi’s catch phrase “I ask the House to reflect on what the Taliban will think of this sort of behaviour” has become a firm favourite with viewers of Al-Jazeera’s immensely popular parliamentary sketch show Kabul Kapers.  

Moments before announcing the Bercow banishment, Mr Cameron had issued an impassioned plea to Afghanistan’s warring factions to cease their violence. Presumably the idea is that they should give it a week or two to allow plenty of time for the Speaker’s plane to arrive. Best of all, however, was the reaction of a Downing Street spokesman when asked whether Mr Bercow had been asked to take part in the exchange. “I am sure he is fully supportive of our efforts”, replied the spokesman. Or will be, perhaps.

I dare say  too that the Commons will be a much brighter, happier, place for being presided over by Mr Ibrahami.  Tory MPs will be interested to know that he comes from the province of Kundoz. So they won’t have to think of him that differently from Speaker Bercow after all.