Monday 20 May 2019

Orrr-duhhh: Speaker Bercow presides over MPs as if they were unruly children

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow speaks at the conclusion of the debate ahead of a vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit deal
Photo credit: House of Commons/PA Wire
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow speaks at the conclusion of the debate ahead of a vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit deal Photo credit: House of Commons/PA Wire

Gregory Katz

The speaker of the House of Commons is usually taken for granted, except for those rare moments when Britain is having a legislative meltdown and parliament gets centre stage.

And for the Brexit crisis, you might say that the current speaker, John Bercow, is made to ORRR-DUHHH.

As a rambunctious parliament is grappling with the contentious issue, Bercow is trying to stay above the fray even as he plays a major role in shaping the debate.

With his stentorian voice, assertive ways and unapologetic manners, he's playing a major role shaping the debate over the UK's troubled withdrawal from the European Union.

But along the way, he has ruffled some feathers in the government of Theresa May. He's even been compared to the devil by a tabloid newspaper.

The 55-year-old Bercow, who has been speaker since 2009, determines which amendments will be voted on, who will be called upon to speak, and deciding when to use his commanding voice to demand "order".

Or as he sometimes pronounces it, "ORRR-DUHHH! ORRR-DUHHH!"

Some in the government feel he's opposed to Brexit, and it doesn't help that his wife's car is festooned with an anti-Brexit sticker.

Others feel he's simply determined to preserve parliament's power and put the government in its place.

After he was called "Speaker of the Devil" in a front-page headline this week, Bercow refused to apologise. "My job is not to be a cheerleader for the executive branch," he said. "My job is to stand up for the rights of the House of Commons." The speaker's primary role is to maintain order, something Bercow does with some style.

"The House must calm itself. Zen. Restraint. Patience," he has said when things threaten to get out of hand. Bercow at times presides over Britain's august legislators as if they were a bunch of unruly kids who won't eat their broccoli.

Earlier this year, a former employer accused him of bullying, but Bercow denied the charge.

Irish Independent

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