Commons Speaker John Bercow to stand down

Commons Speaker John Bercow to stand down

The British House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has announced that he will stand down as an MP at the next general election.

Mr Bercow, in an impassioned speech, told MPs he would stand down as speaker on October 31 unless an election is called before then.

Addressing the Commons while his wife looked on from the gallery, Mr Bercow said:

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 to stand down at the close of business on Thursday, October 31.

Mr Bercow continued: “Least disruptive because that date will fall shortly after the votes on the Queen’s speech expected on October 21 and 22.

“The week or so 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.”

He added that he has “sought to be the backbenchers’ backstop”, and thanked his team in the Speaker’s House for their work behind the scenes.

There were gasps and cheers from the opposition benches as Mr Bercow addressed the Commons.

His speech was greeted with sustained applause from MPs in the chamber. Opposition MPs rose to their feet as did some former Tory MPs, notably those opposing a no-deal Brexit.

His wife Sally Bercow could be seen smiling on from the gallery.

Mr Bercow entered Parliament in 1997 and held several shadow ministerial positions before taking the Speaker’s chair on June 22 2009, promising to serve “no more than nine years in total”.

He abandoned that commitment ahead of the 2017 snap election, but allegations of bullying by former members of his staff, denied by the Speaker, led to fresh calls for him to quit.

In recent months he has also come under fire for a series of controversial rulings in the chamber which were widely considered to favour Remain supporters.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn praised Mr Bercow for being a “superb” Speaker.

He told the Commons: “In your role as Speaker you have totally changed the way in which the job has been done. You’ve reached out to people across the whole country.”

Mr Corbyn added: “This Parliament is stronger for your being Speaker. Our democracy is the stronger for your being the Speaker. And whatever you do when you finally step down from Parliament, you do so with the thanks of a very large number of people.”

Mr Corbyn offered his thanks on behalf of the Labour Party, noting: “Enjoy the last short period in your office but it’s going to be one of the most dramatic there has been.

“I think your choice of timing and dates is incomparable and will be recorded in the history books of parliamentary democracy.”

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said casting her vote to elect Mr Bercow as Speaker was the most important vote she has taken whilst being an MP.

Ms Swinson said: “In choosing you to be Speaker, it is the most important decision I have taken in this House for our country and our parliamentary democracy.”

She also thanked Mr Bercow for introducing reforms allowing for Parliament to be more accessible for parents.

She added: “You’ve been a truly modernising Speaker but there is more to do and I hope whoever takes over recognises this.”

For the Government, Michael Gove said it was clear Mr Bercow loved the House of Commons and democracy, adding: “Your commitment to your principles and to your constituents is unwavering and an example to others.”

Mr Gove joked that he hoped Mr Bercow would not take it personally when he votes for an early general election, adding: “It is the case that however controversial the role of the backstop may be in other areas, your role as the backbenchers’ backstop has certainly been one that’s been appreciated by individuals across this House.”

However Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage tweeted “good riddance” in response to Mr Bercow’s announcement.

Updated with additional information at 5.30pm.

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