Commons Speaker announces retirement – depriving Tories of propaganda victory

John Bercow: The Speaker in action.

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has stopped the Conservative government from claiming a propaganda victory it desperately needs by announcing that he is to stand down at the next general election or on October 31 – whichever comes first.

This Site has reported Andrea Leadsom’s announcement that the Conservatives would stand a candidate against Mr Bercow at the next general election, on the grounds that he had undermined democracy by allowing Parliament to discuss – and pass – a backbench Bill ordering the government not to put the UK through a “no deal” Brexit.

Some might say that Mr Bercow’s announcement means the Tories have beaten him – but this is not true.

As he explained in his statement to the Commons, Mr Bercow has long intended to leave at the end of the Parliamentary session which began in 2017.

And by going through with this plan, he has deprived Ms Leadsom and her boss Boris Johnson of the chance to claim that they ousted him.

Here’s his full statement:

Colleagues, I would like to make a personal statement to the house. At the 2017 election I promised my wife and children that it would be my last. This is a pledge that I intend to keep. If the house votes tonight for an early general election, my tenure as Speaker and MP will end when this parliament ends.

If the house does not so vote, I have concluded that the least disruptive and most democratic course of action would be for me stand down at the close of business on Thursday, 31 October. Least disruptive because that date will fall shortly after the votes on the Queen’s speech expected on 21 and 22 October.

The week also after that may be quite lively and it would be best to have an experienced figure in the chair for that short period.

Most democratic because it will mean that a ballot is held when all members have some knowledge of the candidates. This is far preferable to a contest at the beginning of a parliament when new MPs will not be similarly informed and may find themselves vulnerable to undue institutional influence.

We would not want anyone to be whipped senseless, would we? Throughout my time as Speaker I have sought to increase the relative authority of this legislature for which I will make absolutely no apology to anyone, anywhere, at any time.

To deploy a perhaps dangerous phrase, I have also sought to be the backbencher’s backstop.

I could not do so without the support of a small but superb team in Speaker’s House, the wider house staff, my Buckingham constituents, and above all my wife, Sally, and our three children, Oliver, Freddy and Jemima. From the bottom of my heart, I thank them all profusely.

I could also not have served without the repeated support of this house and its members past and present. This is a wonderful place filled overwhelmingly by people who are motivated by their notion of the national interest by their perception of the public good. And by their duty, not as delegates, but as representatives, to do what they believe is right for our country.

We degrade this parliament at our peril. I have served as a member of parliament for 22 years, and for the last 10 as Speaker. This has been, let me put it explicitly, the greatest privilege and honour of my professional life for which I will be eternally grateful.

I wish my successor in the chair the very best fortune in standing up for the rights of honourable and right honourable members individually and for parliament institutionally as the Speaker of the House of Commons.

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11 thoughts on “Commons Speaker announces retirement – depriving Tories of propaganda victory

  1. Jeffrey davies

    Yet he was a Tory who played by the house rule how devious are they the Tory party when they can’t have their way a decent one was he who tried to be fair to all yet his party can’t play by the rules of the house

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      IMpartiality, you mean! He was dedicated to democracy, rather than to supporting a government that – let’s be honest – thought it was above the law. Bercow kept Parliament on the level.

      1. Zippi

        That is true but he allowed his feelings on the E.U. issue to be known, which tainted every decision that he made in that regard.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Why? It’s entirely possible to carry out a job impartially and still have strong feelings about it. What difference would it have made if he had not articulated his own opinions? None, as far as I can tell.

      3. Zippi

        By making his feeling known, every decision that he makes, in that regard, becomes questionable, whether he remains impartial, or not. My understanding is that The Speaker should not make public his opinions on such matters for precisely this reason.

      4. Mike Sivier Post author

        Why does it become questionable? Is that a knee-jerk reaction from people who aren’t able to judge for themselves and need to be led by the nose?

  2. Zippi

    No but any decision that he makes that those who want to leave see as being prejudicial cannot, immediately be seen to be otherwise; his own bias may be called into question. He didn’t need to let us know and my understanding is that he most certainly should not have made his feelings public. It’s far harder to prove that you didn’t shoot somebody if your fingerprints are on the gun.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      But his fingerprints aren’t on the gun; there’s no evidence of prejudice in his behaviour.

      1. Zippi

        I’m not saying that there is. Clearly, I’m not making a very good job of explaining. As Speaker, he should not have made his feelings public, for it puts him in an awkward position and any decisions that he makes could be seen as prejudicial. I’m not saying that this is the case, far from it but it becomes incredibly difficult to prove otherwise, should an allegation be forthcoming. It is important not just that the Speaker be impartial but that he is SEEN to be.
        My evidently poor analogy was of an innocent who happened to have handled a gun that had been used in a shooting, hence the fingerprints. Better not to have touched the gun, i.e. kept his political feelings private. Does that make more sense?

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        You have made your feelings known and I disagree. You will not change my mind – or that of anybody else – by repeating yourself. The Speaker has been impartial in his behaviour as Speaker.

Comments are closed.