Benn and Corbyn pay tribute to Bercow as he announces his retirement
Many will suggest that Speaker John Bercow has been more controversial than others who have been in the role before but last night, just before the contentious prorogation of parliament, he delivered a shock of his own.
While he had made it clear that this parliament would be his last in the Speaker’s chair, few expected him to announce his resignation last night.
Whilst it is true that many expect a general election very shortly, it was thought that Bercow would wait until that moment came. However last night in the House of Commons he announced that his tenure would end on October 31.
Of course, those gathered in the lower chamber, found the date of his retirement very amusing, coinciding as it does with the date that the Uk is due to leave the EU.
In fact it has been his faithful, some might say partisan, support of parliament over government in the last session that has smeared or bolstered his reputation depending on which side of the Brexit fence you sit.
In fact he referenced this in his resignation speech when he stated, “ I have sough to be the backbenchers’ backstop”.
In an emotional tone he thanked MPs for their support insisting that, “I could not have served without the support of the members of this house past and present”, and in a clear reference to Johnson’s recent behaviour he concluded with the impassioned statement that, “We degrade this house at our peril”.
Bercow has occupied the role for ten years, and in an unusually heartfelt response, the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn acknowledged that “This parliament is stronger for you being the Speaker”, offering him his thanks.
Boris Johnson was not in parliament yesterday, as his Brexit journey took him to Ireland, so the government’s acknowledgement of Bercow’s announcement was left to Michal Gove. Whilst polite, the emotion was not as obvious as that displayed by Hilary Benn, who described him as, “One of the great reforming Speakers”.
Bercow certainly played a key role in the Brexit situation and it will be very interesting who takes his place. It will be a hard act to follow.
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