UK Politics

John Bercow plans to stay on as Commons Speaker

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Media captionThe Speaker has found fame across Europe with his signature cry capturing the public's attention

John Bercow has said he has no plans to stand down as Speaker of the House of Commons, despite speculation that he would retire this summer.

He told the Guardian he would stay in post while there were "momentous events taking place in Parliament".

He added that it was not "sensible to vacate the chair" at the moment.

However, Women and Equalities Committee chair Maria Miller disagreed, insisting "no MP should stand by and allow the Speaker to continue in his post."

BBC deputy political editor John Pienaar says Mr Bercow's announcement is potentially a Brexit game-changer, which will anger a lot of Brexiteers because they suspect - rightly - that he is ready to help MPs construct a parliamentary roadblock to a no-deal exit.

After his first election nearly 10 years ago, Mr Bercow said he intended to serve no more than nine years. He has since been re-elected unopposed again in 2015 and 2017.

But on Tuesday, he told the Guardian newspaper: "I've never said anything about going in July of this year.

"Secondly, I do feel that now is a time in which momentous events are taking place and there are great issues to be resolved and in those circumstances, it doesn't seem to me sensible to vacate the chair."

Mr Bercow has faced claims of anti-Brexit bias and overruling precedent on "a number of key votes".

On Tuesday, he dismissed claims from some Brexiteers that because a no-deal exit is the default position in law, it will "inevitably" happen if no agreement is reached by 31 October with Brussels.

And in March, he controversially ruled out MPs voting on Prime Minister Theresa May's deal for a third time unless the government asked a different question.

Speaking to the BBC, Brexit Minister James Cleverly said he had "long known that the House of Commons and the Speaker will do everything they can to prevent a no-deal Brexit."

Bullying

The Speaker was also criticised after a report last year concluded that bullying and harassment in the House of Commons were not being dealt with due to an atmosphere of "acquiescence and silence".

Conservative MP Mrs Miller said: "The Cox Report was clear that the House of Commons needs a wholesale change in leadership...

"The Cox report specifically includes the Speaker in that recommendation, the most senior person in the House of Commons - no MP should stand by and allow the Speaker to continue in his post."

Mr Bercow has also personally faced allegations of bullying, which he denies.

Analysis: By Jonathan Blake, BBC political correspondent

Between the lines of John Bercow's words is a message to the wannabe prime ministers.

His intervention is a timely reminder to the Tory leadership contenders touting a deal or no-deal Brexit on 31 October that it may not be as simple as that.

MPs have shown they will find ways to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal. And the Speaker has shown he is not shy of taking controversial decisions and setting parliamentary precedent.

To some he is facilitating due scrutiny of the government, others accuse him of manipulating the process.

But what matters is what the majority of MPs want and whether they can assert their will.

John Bercow said Brexit had "whetted the appetite" of Parliament to have its say.

The path may not be clear, the rules as yet unwritten, but it sounds like the Speaker may be preparing for a feast.


Other MPs welcomed the Speaker's plan to continue, including shadow minister Steve Reed who tweeted: "Speaker Bercow is quite right to stay on until the Brexit crisis is over, Parliament and the country needs his experience."

Labour MP Chris Bryant has said that when Mr Bercow does stand down, his successor must focus on "tending to the wounds" caused by Brexit rows and harassment scandals.

Meanwhile, two female MPs - Gloria De Piero and Nicky Morgan - have called for the next Speaker to be a woman.

What is the role of the Speaker?

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The Speaker, elected by MPs, is in charge of keeping order in the House of Commons.

They pick MPs to speak in debates and can suspend those who deliberately break the rules.

They also select which amendments will be voted on and decide whether or not to grant emergency debates and urgent questions.

In addition to these duties any new Speaker will have to handle allegations of bullying and harassment in Westminster.

The position is an impartial role and, once elected, the Speaker is expected to resign from their party.

Read more on the Speaker's role.

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