Former Conservative Speaker of the House of Commons Joins Labour Party and Attacks British Government
That’s the sound many of us might still associate with the Brexit debates in the UK Parliament. It was the trademark call of the then Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow. Whether one agrees with some journalists’ verdict that he overplayed his role and placed too much emphasis on his own person, whether it is true that he bullied staff or not - the debates were certainly made entertaining to watch by his remarks. In addition, and more importantly, Bercow had a reputation of giving backbench MPs a chance to speak.
If the Speaker of the House is a member of a political party, he or she must resign at taking office because he or she needs to be impartial. Bercow, when he took office in 2009 was a member of the Conservative Party. As Speaker he made some controversial decisions about how debates should proceed. It was no secret that he was sceptical about Brexit. As a consequence, the current Conservative government under Boris Johnson refused to make him a member of the House of Lords, the second chamber of the UK Parliament, as had been the custom for hundreds of years. In a way, this questions the UK Parliament as an institution because one of the tasks of the House of Lords is “questioning government action”, which will now have to be done without Bercow’s critical voice.
Thus, although Bercow claims he is not taking revenge, his recent announcement that he has joined the Labour Party still came as “an extraordinary broadside against Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party”, as TheGuardian puts it (to illustrate the significance of this, imagine the American equivalent: Nancy Pelosi joining the Republicans…).
In the interview with The Observer, in which Bercow talked about his new party membership, he also delivered a devastating evaluation of the current government and particularly the Prime Minister who he calls “a successful campaigner but a louse governor”. He claims that the government is hiding the truth about many matters from parliament and that it needs to be replaced. It remains to be seen whether this very public “broadside against Boris Johnson” will have any effect on the Prime Minister’s politics or career.
See part of the interview:
Here are some of the more memorable moments from his time as Speaker of the House of Commons, as put together by The Guardian:
In case you are not familiar with how tumultuous the British Parliament can get (very different traditions from the German one), here is a series of impressions of “MPs behaving badly”, put together by TheSun: