“Order, order”. These few words have been intrinsically linked to John Bercow over the last decade, the Speaker of the House of Commons. This sentence will strike a familiar note, even for those who are barely interested in politics. John Bercow’s embodiment of Mr Speaker has become iconic during the debates of the British Lower House. His persona and eloquent, passionate manner of speaking has drawn quite some attention to the position of Speaker of the House of Commons. Just recently, Bercow announced that he wishes to resign after more than ten years. The likelihood of Bercow stepping down remained unclear for a while, given the fact that Johnson’s Brexit deal was voted down by the House of Commons. Nonetheless, Bercow confirmed on the 30th of October that from the 31st onwards, he will no longer fulfil his duty as Speaker of the House of Commons.
19 January 1963, John Simon Bercow was born in Edgware, London. Bercow has Jewish roots and his family changed their surname from Berkowitz to Bercow when they moved to the United Kingdom. Bercow graduated from the University of Essex and married Sally Illman in 2002. Besides being the Speaker of the House and a regular MP in Parliament, Bercow is also active as Chair of the United Kingdom Youth Parliament and Chancellor of his alma mater, the University of Essex.
Progressive Tory or secret Labour supporter?
Bercow’s political affiliations are interesting, to say the least. During his time at university, Bercow was a member of the notorious right-wing Conservative Monday Club. However, Bercow renounced his membership in later years. In 1997, Bercow was elected as MP for the Conservatives, marking the beginning of his political career. Over the years, Bercow has become more favourably disposed towards the Labour Party. Some argue that his wife Sally, a Labour councillor, has softened his political views. Obviously, this rumour does not provide a solid explanation as to why Bercow’s political orientation has shifted over the years. However, we do know that Bercow voted to remain in the Brexit referendum as he revealed to students at Reading University. This is noteworthy since the Conservatives are generally known for their critical stance towards the European Union.
Bercow’s strong opinions about Trump only fuelled the allegations that Bercow was more in favour of the Labour Party than the Conservatives. He sparked a lot of debate when he argued in 2017 that Donald Trump, if it were up to him, should not be allowed to speak in the House of Commons because Trump’s racist and sexist views did not correspond with the values of the House of Commons. Critics argued that statements like these would jeopardise his non-partisan role s speaker of the House of Commons.
Bercow’s prominence as Speaker of the House of Commons increased after the Brexit vote and during Theresa May’s Brexit negotiations. Over the years, Bercow has been applauded by the Labour Party while in 2015, his former party, the Conservatives, attempted to get rid of Bercow even though this ballot did not receive a majority. However, several MPs have accused him of actively obstructing Brexit, abusing his role as Speaker. For example, last March Bercow denied a third vote on May’s deal because it would break a 1604 convention that states that a motion similar to a recently rejected motion, should not receive another vote. A week or so ago, Bercow again, invoked this 1604 convention. Actions like these, together with his pro-EU stance, have caused suspicion amongst hard-line Brexiteers.
On the 9th of September, Bercow announced that he would step down as MP and Speaker of the House of Commons on the date that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, the 31st of October or otherwise at the next election. It turned out that the United Kingdom was granted another extension so Brexit will not happen on the 31st of October.Yesterday, however, Bercow announced during an emotional speech that the 31st would be his last day as Speaker of the House. His resignation signals the end of an era in which he has played a huge role, especially during Theresa May’s Brexit negotiations. Bercow may have been hated by many but he was loved by even more, permanently putting his mark on the House of Commons and the position of Speaker of the House of Commons.
Image in header by Ernests Dinka, Saeima – 15.februāra Saeimas sēde, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66698668