Commons Speaker John Bercow is trying to bully Britain out of Brexit

Commons Speaker John Bercow is trying to bully Britain out of Brexit

SEVENTEEN point four million people voted for Brexit. But one man thinks his vote matters more than all of them put together.
In Parliament yesterday, the Speaker of the House of Commons didn’t just declare war on the Government — but on Brexit.
Commons Speaker John Bercow is trying to bully Britain out of Brexit, writes Robert Colvile
John Bercow may have cited voluminous constitutional precedents in saying that the Prime Minister could not bring back her deal to Parliament for a third time without substantive changes.
But this is the same man who drove a coach and horses through the same precedents just weeks ago in order to further the Remain cause.
To the pompous, preening, puffed-up figure in the Speaker’s chair, only two things now matter — opposing Brexit and putting himself at the centre of attention.
And by ambushing the Government yesterday, he has done both.
Britain’s unwritten constitution depends on certain key figures acting with absolute integrity — the Queen, the Cabinet Secretary, the Speaker.
The problem is that ever since he assumed his office, Bercow — a massive tennis fan — has acted as though he is not the umpire, but Roger Federer.
He’s the am-dram ham who directs the play, rewrites the script and gives himself the lead role.
George Osborne once acidly observed: “I doubt there have ever been this many egos in a room since John Bercow dined alone.”
Before Brexit, this tendency was simply infuriating, rather than actively dangerous. Since that vote, the Speaker has increasingly displayed not just partisanship but outright contempt for the Leave side.
On the back of his official car, complete with its vanity number plate, stickers appeared reading “B******s to Brexit” and “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted Remain”. He claimed they belonged to his wife Sally, a Labour activist.
The Speaker advised Labour on how to undermine the Brexit deal, even dragging the Queen into things by means of an arcane constitutional device called the “humble address”.
AFP or licensors The pompous, preening, puffed-up figure in the Speaker’s chair is occupied with opposing Brexit
When the Prime Minister faced questions on the Brexit deal in December, it took a full hour for the Speaker to call one of the MPs who supported it.
He broke with constitutional precedent to permit the Tory uber-Remainer Dominic Grieve to put down an amendment on a bill the Government had been reassured could not be amended.
And last week he refused to put forward an amendment supported by 127 MPs, from multiple parties, ruling out a second referendum.
He simultaneously accepted amendments with far less backing which sought to thwart Brexit in one way or another.
Although elected to Parliament as a vehemently right-wing “hang ’em and flog ’em” type, Bercow swung towards the Left in the 2000s. Even though his views changed, his monumental self-regard remained.
He was elected Speaker thanks to a Labour bloc vote and has assiduously courted its support.
Recently he signed a Freedom of Information exemption to stop Newsnight investigating the alleged misbehaviour of Keith Vaz, one of Westminster’s sleaziest MPs, on foreign trips.
For his own Tory colleagues, he often shows little but contempt. After berating Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House, for refusing to listen to him, he complained (according to MPs present) that she was a “stupid woman”.
Then there was the bullying scandal. In the wake of #MeToo, a devastating inquiry chaired by Dame Laura Cox described a culture in Westminster, “cascading from the top down, of deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence, in which bullying, harassment and sexual harassment have been able to thrive and have long been tolerated and concealed”.
She found it “difficult to envisage how the necessary changes can be successfully delivered, and the confidence of the staff restored, under the current senior House administration”. Which meant John Bercow.
There have also been multiple problems with his staff. One senior Parliamentary official claimed Bercow’s “explosive and intemperate behaviour is legendary, objectionable and unworthy of someone in such public office”.
Commons Speaker John Bercow says third meaningful vote can only be held if government’s proposition on Brexit deal is different
His former private secretary, who accuses the Speaker of bullying and mocking him, left with an £85,000 pay-off and a non-disclosure agreement. His successor lasted less than a year before being signed off with PTSD.
Bercow’s predecessor, Michael Martin, resigned in the wake of the expenses scandal because 22 MPs expressed a lack of confidence in him.
Today, you would find ten times that number queuing up to boot out Bercow. But still he clings on.
It may be that this latest intervention backfires. At the point where things seemed to be moving, if uncertainly, in the Prime Minister’s direction, he is refusing to allow a third vote on her deal, even though he seems willing to allow an endless number of votes on different ways of diluting or denying Brexit.
That may enable her, at this week’s European Council, to ask for further concessions from the EU to make sure the deal voted on is genuinely different.
PA:Press Association/PA Images Bercow blocked a probe into alleged misbehaviour of Keith Vaz, one of Westminster’s sleaziest
AFP or licensors The Speaker broke with constitutional precedent to permit the Tory uber-Remainer Dominic Grieve to put down an amendment to hand Brexit to Parliament
But with Bercow in the Speaker’s chair, the likelihood is further constitutional trickery will be deployed to ensure we move towards a softer Brexit, or no Brexit at all.After all, he has burned his bridges now.
Many Remainers are cheering him, calling for statues to be erected in his honour.
But when the Speaker abandons neutrality, it sets a chilling precedent, one that should alarm Leave and Remain voters alike.
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Bercow stands as the emblem of everything disillusioned voters despise about the British political class. His actions will intensify the toxic suspicion among some Leavers that the establishment is determined to cheat them of their victory.
John Bercow may or may not have bullied his staff. But he’s certainly trying to bully this country.
As a result, a Speaker who was merely a disgrace to his office has become an active danger to our democracy.
PRU Bercow stands as the emblem of everything disillusioned Brits despise about the political class
AP:Associated Press Remainers are cheering John Bercow, calling for statues to be erected in his honour
PA:Press Association Bercow’s views have swung towards the Left but his monumental self-regard has remained
PA:Press Association John Bercow has been accused of belittling colleagues – like Andrea Leadsom – and bullying staff
John Bercow admits to championing the dissident minority in House of Commons Brexit debates


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