The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, as we all know is embroiled in a row over his impartiality after recent comments made about President of the United States, Donald Trump, and saying he voted to remain in the European Union during last years referendum.
James Duddridge, a Tory MP and former Foreign Office Minister claimed that Bercow speaking out in the Commons saying that he would block President Trump from addressing Parliament in Westminster Hall due to his ‘racist and sexist attitudes’ shows that Bercow is unfit to be Speaker, a role which is independent of party politics. Duddridge has gone as far to call a vote of no confidence over the row when Parliament comes back from its short February recess this week. Claiming no Cabinet Minister would support the Speaker in the vote, Duddridge seems confident with the backing of a selection of Tory backbenchers that Bercow will come to fall on his sword. So you can imagine the look on James Duddridge’s face when it splashed over the news that John Bercow admitted voting remain.
Being the Speaker doesn’t refrain you from being able to vote in elections. After all whether Parliamentary, Local Government or Referenda, everyone within the voting franchise is entitledto a secret ballot. But Bercow’s enemies claim that for the independent and impartial Speaker to reveal which way he voted over such a topic as the European Union, could be seen as bias and therefore public admittance of how John Bercow voted is enough reason to see him gone as Speaker. However the facts are, John Bercow admitted this in a private event at a University when answering a question. The referendum is over and the result decided, Leave won and the Speaker cannot change that, and any debate required is to be brought forward by either the Government or the Opposition parties, not by the Speaker himself. Once Article 50 is triggered the vote of the Speaker is useless as the cogs turn to set in place our departure from the European Union. John Bercow is entitled to a vote, and therefore like us all, entitled to reveal how he voted. If he came out during the campaign urging voters to opt for remain, thats a breach of the impartiality by which the Speaker is bound, and therefore in my eyes, this admittance of voting remain is not a career ending issue.
The comments made by the Speaker in the Commons, in my view are also not a career ending issue. John Bercow as Speaker, alongside the Great Lord Chamberlain and the Lords Speaker must agree to any use of Westminster Hall during a State Visit. However, addressing Parliament in the Hall isn’t a staple feature of a State Visit, and whilst offered to former President Obama on his visit in the previous Parliament alongside only 3 others during Bercow’s time as Speaker: Pope Benedict XVI, Her Majesty the Queen, and Aung San Sung Syi. Any other address to Parliament by a foreign leader has been in the Royal Gallery or the Queens Robing Room, which are not under the jurisdiction of the Commons’ Speaker but only the Great Lord Chamberlain and Lords’ Speaker.
But to skip to the point, why should the Speaker of the House of Commons allow a man with such horrific views on equality, Muslims and women to be granted one of the biggest honours a Foreign Leader can receive from our Parliament, an address to both houses in Westminster Hall? Yes, whilst Bercow has shook the hands of the Emir of Kuwait and the Chinese President on their State visits, he had no right to block them from their addresses over in the Robing room and the Royal Gallery. Should the Speaker call out foreign leaders or simply stand on by? The MPs seeking to dethrone Bercow should of course be granted their right to speak out on the issue, but calling for the Speaker’s resignation in his final year or so of the 9 year term the Speaker serves is to me, preposterous.
Carry on, Mr Speaker, it is your duty to the Parliament and the Country to allow only those who are fit to govern and lead and inspire future generations to give an Address in Westminster Hall.