Friday 17 November 2017

UK Speaker under fire again after speech reveals he voted Remain over Brexit

Speaker John Bercow. Photo: PA
Speaker John Bercow. Photo: PA

Shaun Connolly

UK Speaker John Bercow was facing the biggest challenge yet to his position as Tory MPs rounded on him for revealing he voted Remain in the Brexit referendum.

With Mr Bercow facing a vote of no confidence after a controversial tenure in the role, Tory MPs questioned how he could be seen as neutral during parliamentary Brexit debates, while the opposition rallied to his defence. The Tory Leader of the Commons, David Lidington, warned there would be "strong" reaction to Mr Bercow's latest move. He said the Speaker must command the confidence of the whole House.

Mr Bercow was plunged into fresh controversy after a video emerged of him talking to students at Reading University on February 3, in which he said: "Personally, I voted to Remain. I thought it was better to stay in the European Union than not."

In the video, Mr Bercow says immigration has been a good thing for Britain.

Mr Bercow also referred to "untruths" during the Brexit campaign, and how "promises were made that could not be kept", and expressed hopes that Parliament would maintain changes to working hours and health and safety protections after Brexit.

After Mr Bercow drew fire from some for branding US President Donald Trump a "racist and sexist" as he effectively banned him from addressing Parliament during his state visit, a number of Tory MPs said his position as Speaker was no longer tenable when the Commons returned from recess on February 20.

"There will be strong reaction among some MPs to what he said at Reading, particularly after what he said about the state visit earlier in the week. Ultimately, the Speaker has to command the confidence of the House of Commons as a whole," Mr Lidington said.

"John has his very strong supporters, as well as his strong critics, in the House of Commons, but we shall have to see how members as a whole respond."

The parliamentary website states: "The Speaker is the chief officer and highest authority of the House of Commons and must remain politically impartial at all times. On election, the new Speaker must resign from their political party and remain separate from political issues even in retirement."

Mr Bercow's spokeswoman said that how he cast his ballot in the Brexit poll had no impact on his ability to deal fairly with all MPs.

She said: "Mr Bercow voted in the EU referendum, along with millions of others. The record shows that he has rigorously facilitated the raising of concerns of those on both sides of this argument, as he does on every other issue."

Irish Independent

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