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Thursday, October 31, 2019, was John Bercow’s last day as Speaker of the House of Commons.

I listened to Parliamentary proceedings that day, as I wanted to be sure he was actually leaving. Based on the fulsome tributes from both Conservative and Labour MPs, it appears as if yesterday did indeed bring an end to the former Conservative’s tenure as Speaker.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave him a witty, tongue-in-cheek tribute at Wednesday’s PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions):

No doubt Bercow got Boris’s asides, delivered with aplomb. MPs laughed at the back-handed compliments. To a stranger, they would have indeed sounded as positives. However, those of us watching at home got the jokes.

I had not noticed, but a number of MPs not standing for re-election on December 12 spoke on Wednesday. That was entirely at Speaker Bercow’s discretion.

Interestingly, Kate Hoey, Labour’s MP for Vauxhall and a firm Leave supporter, was not among them:

Many of us hope that Kate Hoey could run as a candidate for the Brexit Party (BXP):

She has always been a ladylike and eloquent MP, unlike many other women on the opposition benches who, quite frankly, sound like angry harpies:

Most of us do not like John Bercow because not only did he turn his back on the Conservative Party shortly after becoming Speaker, he also did his best to bring up motions that frustrated the Brexit process, from Theresa May’s final months to now.

Behind the scenes, members of his staff accused him of harassment. No investigation took place. All he needed to do was to deny the accusations.

As I write on Thursday, I am listening to more MPs — many of whom are Conservatives — fawn over Bercow.

Bercow has a grace and favour accommodation, Speaker’s House, in the Palace of Westminster. Unfortunately, it requires renovation, so his successor, to be elected on Monday, November 4, will not be able to move into it for another year. Could the works have been staged, particularly during the many lengthy recesses? Did he have any say in prolonging repairs? One wonders:

Guido Fawkes describes Speaker’s House as follows (emphasis in the original):

The Speaker of the House of Commons doesn’t just get the freedom to verbally abuse whoever he likes, he gets a very swanky pad in the heart of the Palace of Westminster, with staterooms, a bedroom designed for the monarch to stay in and a private gilded study. Lesser known about Bercow’s pad is it also includes a private sectioned-off part of the Commons’ Terrace as a private space to entertain guests outside. All paid for by the taxpayer of course.

Despite living in situ in the Palace of Westminster, Bercow took a roundabout route to work on his last day:

Guido Fawkes tells us about the Press Association (PA) record of the event along with a tweet:

John Bercow was pictured arriving at work this morning by PA in the kind of candid, natural shots that we all indulge in on our final day job commute.

The only flaw in his plan was that Bercow lives in Speaker’s House… in the Palace of Westminster – meaning he had to first leave his place of work to be featured in the snaps heading back in – a 1627% longer journey. The whole thing is just a faked up performance for the cameras… perfectly appropriate ending.

That said, the PA had a good summary of his ten-year tenure as Speaker, excerpted below, emphases mine:

John Bercow has been no stranger to the limelight in more than 10 years in the Speaker’s chair.

The one-time Conservative MP for Buckingham, with a high-profile Labour-supporting wife, has made a catalogue of unconventional comments since he took over the impartial role from Michael Martin.

He has survived attempts to remove him from the chair, including from former colleagues in the Tory party, revelations about his expenses and allegations of bullying, which he denied.

But it will perhaps be his interventions in the Brexit crisis, and the relish with which he seemed to make them, for which he will be best remembered.

Regular Parliament watchers may or may not miss his inimitable style, such as his bellowing shouts of “order” and “division, clear the lobby”, but those quirks are what brought him international attention when the eyes of the world became fixed on the Commons throughout 2019.

As the Brexit debate raged and senior opposition figures played every trick in the parliamentary book to prevent the governments of Theresa May and Boris Johnson from pursuing their preferred policies, Mr Bercow drew the ire of hardline Eurosceptics for perceived bias.

After he allowed an amendment by Tory rebel Dominic Grieve to be voted on in January, he was labelled “Speaker of the Devil” by one newspaper, while the Daily Mail called him an “egotistical preening popinjay (who) has shamelessly put his anti-Brexit bias before the national interest – and is a disgrace to his office”.

He voted Remain, discussing it candidly with a group of students, but in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica denied this meant he had lost his impartiality.

“If I’m biased, I’m biased in favour of Parliament. Parliament being heard. Parliament having a right to speak. Parliament having time. Parliament being respected by the government of the day and indeed by the opposition,” he said.

Since being elected as the 157th Speaker of the House of Commons in June 2009, he has delivered many caustic put-downs, earning him both loathing and appreciative laughter from MPs.

He had a fractious relationship with former Commons Leader, and now Business Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, after he was accused of calling her a “stupid woman”.

Andrea Leadsom is far from being ‘stupid’, but that’s Bercow.

Three weeks ago, Bercow travelled to Brussels to meet with his opposite number, the EU Parliament President David Sassoli:

The Speaker’s role does not include government negotiations:

To think that October 31 was supposed to be our Brexit date. Of course, Bercow did not prevent this single-handedly, but, nonetheless, he helped:

On the Saturday, October 19 session, Bercow brought forward the Letwin Amendment, which stipulated that all Brexit legislation be voted on before Boris’s new deal was approved. Its passage by MPs that day ensured that Boris had to send letters of extension to Brussels, in compliance with the Benn Act. January 31, 2020 is the new Brexit deadline:

The following day, one of his deputies, Conservative MP Dame Eleanor Laing, accused him of abusing his position:

The Mail on Sunday article states:

Dame Eleanor is one of nine MPs running to replace him, including fellow deputies Sir Linsday Hoyle and Dame Rosie Winterton.  

In another barely veiled attack on Mr Bercow, Dame Eleanor said the Speaker needed to ‘set an example of dignified, respectful behaviour’ and said: ‘Aggression and arrogance are deplorable.’ 

Mr Bercow’s critics have frequently taken aim at what they see as a pompous, grandstanding style of managing the Commons. 

In a bizarre rant at Michael Gove last month he even brought the Cabinet minister’s children into a row

The Speaker was back in the spotlight yesterday as the Commons assembled on a Saturday for the first time since the Falklands War in 1982. 

After Mr Johnson lost the crunch vote, the Speaker hinted he could block a Government attempt to bring another ‘meaningful vote’ on Monday

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, suggested the Government would bring the vote before introducing Withdrawal Agreement legislation this week.

But Mr Bercow has previously ruled that MPs cannot hold repeated votes on the same question

Citing a precedent dating back to 1604, he ruled in March that then-PM Theresa May could not bring the same withdrawal deal back to Parliament without changes.   

The ruling enraged Conservative MPs who accused him of sparking a ‘constitutional crisis’

Two months earlier he had torn up precedent to allow a procedural vote which damaged Mrs May

‘If we were guided only by precedent, manifestly nothing in our procedures would ever change,’ he said at the time.      

Mr Bercow, previously a Conservative MP, took the chair in 2009 after Michael Martin resigned over the expenses scandal. 

The following week, Boris’s deal did pass in Parliament, however, MPs opposed the Programme Motion for approving legislation, which they said had too short a timeframe. Hence, Boris’s move for an election on December 12, which has now passed the House of Lords:

As for choosing Bercow’s successor on Monday, I wish Dame Eleanor all the best:

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, made it known that he will be voting for her:

That said, many pundits say that it is now Labour’s turn to sit in the chair. We shall see.

More next week.

UPDATE: A surprise ending (well, perhaps not so much to my British readers) awaits on Monday. It took place late during Thursday’s proceedings and deserves its own post.

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