John Bercow’s most controversial moments

John Bercow is set for his last day as Speaker of the House of Commons today as he steps down after a decade in the chair.

Bercow, who is also standing down as MP for Buckingham, has been a controversial and increasingly notorious figure because of his Brexit interventions.

But while anti-EU MPs and tabloids have questioned the Speaker’s impartiality, he has remained popular with much of the public for his turn of phrase and spin on the traditional cry of “Order!” says the BBC.

Boris Johnson said that Bercow had been an innovator and a “great servant” of the House, says the BBC.

Jeremy Corbyn praised the Speaker for reforming the Commons and spreading a message on the importance Parliamentary democracy overseas.

“You’ve done so much to reform this House of Commons and our democracy is stronger for the way you’ve done it,” said the Labour leader in Metro.

Bercow’s final-day duties are set to include overseeing a government statement on future Parliamentary business and chairing questions to the environment secretary.

It will be a relatively quiet finish to a ten-year tenure that has seen the Speaker involved in plenty of entertaining and controversial moments.

The Week looks at some of the best:

Trump banned from Commons

Bercow blocked a proposed speech by Donald Trump to Parliament on the US president’s state visit to the UK in 2017.

“An address to both Houses of Parliament is not an automatic right; it is an earned honour,” he said. “My view is that he has not earned that honour,” The Independent reported.

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“I would not wish to issue an invitation to President Trump to speak in the Royal Gallery…I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons.”

Bercow also cited Trump’s “migrant ban”, aimed at stopping Muslims entering the US, as a reason to prevent him addressing the Commons.

Bercow survives motion to unseat him

A motion to introduce a secret ballot to get rid of Bercow as Commons Speaker was introduced by William Hague and Michael Gove ahead of the 2015 election.

The motion was defeated by 228 votes to 202, prompting enthusiastic and rare applause in the chamber, says The Guardian.

Bercow was visibly emotional at the result, and gave the government front bench a cold stare after reading the result to the House.

Brexit sticker

Bercow enraged MPs after a sticker was spotted on his wife’s car window saying “Bollocks to Brexit”.

Tory MP Adam Holloway questioned the Speaker’s impartiality because of the slogan, the Daily Mirror reported in January.

“We’ve all noticed in recent months a sticker in your car making derogatory comments about Brexit,” he said in the Commons. To boos from MPs, he continued: “No! This is a serious point about partiality. Have you driven that car with the sticker there?” he asked.

Bercow interrupted Holloway, saying he had made a “factual error” after the MP described the car as belonging to the Speaker. “That sticker, on the subject of Brexit, happens to be affixed to my wife’s car,” said Bercow.

“I’m sure the honourable gentleman wouldn’t suggest for one moment that a wife is somehow the property or chattel of her husband,” he continued.

Michael Gove the “good boy”

During a particularly heated Brexit exchange in the Commons in September, Bercow was forced to call upon Michael Gove to be a “good boy” after the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was seen to be getting worked up.

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Calling “order” as loud jeers met Jeremy Corbyn’s insistence that no-deal Brexit be taken “off the table”, Bercow then turned to Gove.

“I say to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster,” said Bercow to Gove, “that, when he turns up at our children’s school as a parent, he is a very well behaved fellow.

“He would not dare to behave like that in front of [Headmaster] Colin Hall and neither would I. Do not gesticulate. Do not rant. Spare us the theatrics.

“Behave yourself. Be a good boy, young man. Be a good boy.”

Bullying Bercow

David Leakey, a former Black Rod, and Bercow’s former private secretary, Angus Sinclair, accused Bercow of bullying.

In 2018, Leakey described an incident in which Bercow allegedly “banged the table, yelled and was highly insulting to me personally” after the “red mist descended” on him.

Bercow’s spokesperson insisted there was “no substance” to the allegations by either man, and the Speaker himself made a statement to the Commons, the BBC reports.


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