Britain’s Speaker Bercow Quits Brexit Hot Seat

Britain’s Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow making some personal remarks to thank staff, members and family members in the House of Commons in London on October 30, 2019 ahead of his retirement on October 31. JESSICA TAYLOR / AFP / UK PARLIAMENT

 

John Bercow stepped down on Thursday after 10 years as speaker of Britain’s House of Commons — a role that rocketed him into the heart of the Brexit battle, and won him European fans.

The man in the middle of more than three years of fiery parliamentary debates has proved a controversial figure, loathed by pro-Brexit supporters and hailed by its foes.

Animated, verbose and with an idiosyncratic style, the 56-year-old Bercow has yelled “Order! Order!” more than 14,000 times during his tenure as the 157th speaker.

His detractors call him pompous — one MP even branded him a “sanctimonious dwarf” — but his backers say he has bolstered the rights of backbenchers to hold the government to account.

A social media mash-up by German television of Bercow trying to calm down rowdy MPs has been seen thousands of times. A Belgian newspaper called him “irreplaceable”.

Dutch daily De Volksrant wrote: “The only order in British politics comes from John Bercow’s mouth in these turbulent days.”

Both Britain’s main party leaders paid tribute to Bercow Wednesday as he chaired the weekly prime minister’s questions session for the final time.

 ‘Unreturnable volleys and smashes’ 

“Although we may disagree about some of the legislative innovations you have favoured, there is no doubt in my mind that you have been a great servant of this parliament and of this House of Commons,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson, in his own inimitable style, said the tennis fan had been “peppering every part of the chamber with (his) own thoughts and opinions, like some uncontrollable tennis ball machine, delivering a series of literally unplayable, unreturnable volleys and smashes”.

He also likened Bercow’s glare to a “trademark Tony Montana scowl”, after Al Pacino’s character in the 1983 film “Scarface”.

Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn added: “You’ve done so much to reform this House of Commons and our democracy is the stronger for the way you have done it.”

Bercow will not stand in the December 12 general election.

His replacement as speaker will be chosen on Monday. Nine candidates are standing, including his three deputies and former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman.

Bercow’s number two, Lindsay Hoyle, is the bookmakers’ odds-on favourite to win.

By convention, the main parties give the speaker a clear run in a general election, standing down their candidates.

 ‘Egotistical preening popinjay’ 

Born in 1963 into a modest family, Bercow grew up in London and was a child tennis champion, leading to his lifelong love of the sport, notably Swiss great Roger Federer.

He was always a Conservative, but in his youth held hard-right views that he now rejects.

He became an MP in 1997 and 12 years later was elected as speaker, becoming the youngest person to hold the role for 100 years.

While the Brexit clashes came to dominate his tenure, Bercow also caused a stir by saying he would not allow US President Donald Trump to address parliament during a planned visit.

Bercow married Sally Illman in 2002 and they have three children.

She became a household name after posing for a photoshoot in Bercow’s official residence in the Houses of Parliament draped only a sheet, and appearing on the “Celebrity Big Brother” reality television programme.

Critics say Bercow is filled with self-importance.

The Daily Mail newspaper called him an “egotistical preening popinjay” who had “shamelessly put his anti-Brexit bias before the national interest — and is a disgrace to his office”.

But Bercow’s supporters say he has sought to modernise parliament, abandoning the speaker’s traditional robes for a simple gown over a suit, and seeking to make it easier for female MPs with new babies.

Brexit: UK Parliament Speaker Blocks Holding Of New Vote

Britain’s speaker of the House of Commons makes a statement relating to the speaks in the House of Commons in London on October 21, 2019. HO / AFP / PRU

 

UK Parliament Speaker John Bercow blocked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson from holding a vote Monday on his new Brexit divorce deal after MPs failed to back it on Saturday.

“The motion will not be debated today as it would be repetitive and disorderly to do so,” Bercow told lawmakers in the House of Commons.

AFP

UK Parliament Must ‘Convene Without Delay’- Speaker

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow speaks to the media outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on September 24, 2019,/ AFP

 

House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, on Tuesday said parliament must “convene without delay” after the Supreme Court ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend it earlier this month was unlawful.

Bercow, who has been highly critical of Johnson’s decision, said he would be consulting party leaders “as a matter of urgency”.

READ ALSO: UK Supreme Court Strikes Down Parliament Suspension

This comes after Britain’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson acted unlawfully in suspending parliament in the run-up to Brexit, in a stunning blow that sparked immediate calls for him to resign.

The 11 judges of the country’s highest court were unanimous in their verdict, which they said meant parliament could now immediately reconvene.

Johnson had argued that shutting down parliament until October 14 was a routine move to allow his new government to set out a new legislative programme.

Transparency International Responds To Cameron’s Comments, Accuses UK

David CameronTransparency International has responded to the comments of the British Prime Minister about Nigeria and Afghanistan’s corruption status ahead of the Anti-Corruption Summit that will hold in the UK, saying the UK is part of the world’s corruption problem.

Mr David Cameron had told Queen Elizabeth that the UK would greet some ‘fantastically corrupt’ countries by Thursday, putting Nigeria and Afghanistan in that category.

The statement had drown reactions, with the British Prime Minister trending on Twitter.

He was caught on camera having a conversation about the Summit with the Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and the Speaker of parliament’s House of Commons, John Bercow.

Fantastically Corrupt Countries

When the Queen approached, Mr Cameron said: “We had a very successful cabinet meeting this morning, talking about our anti-corruption summit”.

“We have got the Nigerians – actually we have got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain,” he stated.

Responding to the comments, the Managing Director of Transparency International, Cobus de Swardt, said: “There is no doubt that historically, Nigeria and Afghanistan have had very high levels of corruption, and that continues to this day”.

He, however, stressed that the leaders of those countries had sent strong signals that they wanted things to change.

“The London Anti-Corruption Summit creates an opportunity for all the countries present to sign up to a new era.

“This affects the UK as much as other countries: we should not forget that by providing a safe haven for corrupt assets, the UK and its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are a big part of the world’s corruption problem.”

Nigeria Responds 

Nigeria has also responded to the comments, saying ‘it is not reflective of the anti-corruption posture of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration’.

A statement by the spokesman for the President, Mr Garba Shehu, said the Prime Minister must be looking at the country’s past.

He said Buhari was changing all that were wrong with Nigeria, including corruption, and that his efforts had reflected in his choice as a keynote speaker at a pre-summit in London.

The presidential spokesman said: “It is certainly not reflective of the good work that the President is doing. The eyes of the world are on what is happening here.

“The Prime Minister must be looking at an old snapshot of Nigeria. Things are changing with corruption and everything else. That, we believe is the reason they chose him as a keynote speaker at the pre-summit conference”.

It is not clear if the comments will cause a rift between Britain, Nigeria and Afghanistan, as the leader attend the Summit where they intend to push for faster repatriation of looted funds.

Nigeria’s President is already in the UK for the summit that will begin on Thursday.