politics

Ex-speaker John Bercow defects to Labour as he slams 'xenophobic' Tories


Controversial former Commons Speaker John Bercow has announced he is joining the Labour Party, citing his dislike of Boris Johnson and the Tories.

Mr Bercow, who was Speaker between 2009 and 2019, became the scourge of Brexiteers, who accused him of rewriting the Commons rule book to help Remain supporters.

He branded the Tories under the Prime Minister as “reactionary, populist, nationalistic and sometimes even xenophobic”.

Mr Bercow had a fractious relationship with Mr Johnson, who refused to give him the traditional peerage when he stepped down as Speaker in 2019.

In an interview with the Observer he described the current Conservative Party as “xenophobic”.

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Speaker John Bercow announces the result of the vote on the deal delay at the House of Commons as parliament discusses Brexit
Mr Bercow stepped down as Speaker after 10 years in 2019

He said: “I am motivated by support for equality, social justice and internationalism. That is the Labour brand.”

He went on: “The conclusion I have reached is that this government needs to be replaced.

“The reality is that the Labour Party is the only vehicle that can achieve that objective.”

Mr Bercow has already publicly admitted to voting Labour.

He added: “The conclusion I have reached is that this Government needs to be replaced.

“The reality is that the Labour Party is the only vehicle that can achieve that objective.

“There is no other credible option.”

A senior government source said: “This will surprise nobody and shows Labour is still the party of Remain.”

Mr Johnson blocked Mr Bercow’s nomination for a peerage, making him the first former Speaker not to go to the Lords on retirement.

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Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen, who was an outspoken critic of Mr Bercow’s, said: “Most of us thought he defected to Labour more than a decade ago.”

Mr Bercow became Conservative MP for Buckingham in 1997.

However, by 2009, many of his colleagues believed he was on the verge of defecting to Labour after marrying his wife, Sally, who was a Labour councillor.

Instead he won the election for Speaker of the House, which meant he had to give up party political allegiance.

His career was dogged by allegations of bullying from parliamentary staff, accusations that he always denied.

Mr Bercow was also the subject of intense ire from Brexit-supporting MPs who believed a series of rulings he made during his time as Speaker favoured Remain.

He claimed last year there was a “conspiracy” to stop him getting a seat in the House of Lords.

Labour nominated him for a peerage after the Tories declined to do so, breaking with the long-standing convention that Speakers are elevated once they retire.

Asked if there is the possibility of being recommended for a peerage by Sir Keir Starmer, Mr Bercow told the Observer: “There has been no such discussion and I have asked for no such thing. This isn’t about revenge. That is not what motivates me.”

The Labour leader’s office declined to comment on Mr Bercow joining the party.

Shadow justice minister Karl Turner said he was unsurprised his “friend” had joined Labour, but was “delighted that he has”.

John McDonnell, who was shadow chancellor under Jeremy Corbyn, said Mr Bercow had been “scrupulously fair” in his treatment of MPs, including the former Labour leader.

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“He won our respect, especially for his fight to protect the rights of Parliament. I wholeheartedly welcome him into the Labour Party,” Mr McDonnell said.

On the Conservative side, however, pensions minister Guy Opperman said it was “from bad to worse for” Sir Kier, adding: “Labour are welcome to Bercow.”





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