06:47 GMT31 October 2020
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    John Bercow, known for his colourful ties and his flowery turn of phrases, is retiring as the Speaker of the House of Commons, a post he has held for a decade. Sputnik looks back at some of his greatest moments.

    Politicians and journalists paid tribute to the outgoing Speaker, John Bercow, on social media on Thursday, 31 October, as he bowed out after 10 years in the chair.

    His deputy, Lindsay Hoyle, is the favourite to replace him after an election of MPs on Monday, 4 November.

    In the last year Bercow, who was originally a Conservative MP, has been accused of being biased against Brexit.

    ​Here are some of his biggest moments.

    Gove Treated Like a Naughty Schoolboy

    In 2014 Michael Gove, who was at the time the government’s Chief Whip, was put in his place after his loud protestations aggravated the Speaker.

    Bercow told him: “Mr Gove! You really are a rather over-excited individual! You need to write out 1,000 times 'I will behave myself at Prime Minister's Questions'.”

    MPs on both sides chuckled, while Gove blushed.

    ​Tears as He Survives Tory Coup Plot

    Bercow was elected as Conservative MP for Buckingham, just north of London, in 1997 but became Speaker in 2009, replacing Scotsman Michael Martin.

    Martin, a former Labour MP, had a reputation for being easily manipulated by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and was also criticised for his weak leadership over the MPs’ expenses scandal.

    But Bercow soon carved out a reputation for neutrality and independence and, just before the 2015 general election, David Cameron tried to oust him as Speaker.

    A motion was tabled by the then Leader of the House, William Hague, for  there to be a secret ballot to reselect a speaker when parliament returned but it was defeated by 228 to 202.

    Labour MPs applauded Bercow, who was seen wiping away tears.

    Berating the ‘Beast of Bolsover’

    In April 2016 the Labour veteran Dennis Skinner - nicknamed “The Beast of Bolsover” - was ordered from the chamber after refusing to withdraw an insult of the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

    Skinner had described the PM as “Dodgy Dave” as the Commons discussed David Cameron and the Panama Papers.

    ​Bercow told him to withdraw his adjective "beginning with a 'd' and ending with a 'y'," but Skinner refused to and was then suspended for the day.

    It is considered “unparliamentary language” to accuse another MP of being dishonourable.

    Donald Trump ‘Not Welcome’

    Bercow’s liberal prejudices were on display in November 2017 when he said US President Donald Trump would not be welcome to address Parliament.

    Bercow said Trump’s values contradicted Parliament’s when it came to “racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary”

    ​Trump was visiting the UK on a state visit but Bercow said addressing MPs in Westminster Hall was “not an automatic right, it is an earned honour”.

    The Speaker was accused of breaking rules on political impartiality. 

    ‘Speaker of the Devil’

    Brexit has been manna from heaven for Bercow, whose profile has skyrocketed as has his ego.

    In January he allowed an amendment to Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal deal by rebel Tory MP Dominic Grieve to be voted on.

    ​This perceived treachery led to him being dubbed the “Speaker of the Devil” by The Sun newspaper.

    The Daily Mail called him an “egotistical preening popinjay who has shamelessly put his anti-Brexit bias before the national interest - and is a disgrace to his office.”

    Clashes With Andrea Leadsom

    In May 2018 Bercow was heard to call Andrea Leadsom, the then Leader of the House, a “stupid woman.”

    Labour’s chief whip, Nick Brown, had complained about Leadsom repeatedly breaching convention that time reserved for opposition debates should not be taken up with statements on government business.

    ​Bercow said: “This is an undesirable state of affairs, and if it were to happen on further occasions, a great many honorable and right honorable members, not to mention interested parties in the opposition day debates outside the chamber, would view it, frankly, as an abuse. I hope that that message is heard loudly and clearly on the government frontbench, at the highest level, by the people in particular by whom it needs to be heard.”

    The Speaker’s office said “strong and differing views” had been expressed in the chamber on an “unusual and controversial day”.

    Flash of Temper With Mobile Phone Users

    Leadsom also got a tongue-lashing in March this year when Bercow told her to show the chamber “courtesy and respect” when she was on her mobile phone during Commons business.

    He also had a dig at the then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt: “I do very gently say that to sit on the (front) bench... fiddling ostentatiously with an electronic device defies the established convention of the house that such devices should be used without impairing parliamentary decorum. They are impairing parliamentary decorum. It's a point so blindingly obvious that only an extraordinarily clever and sophisticated person could fail to grasp it.”

    Cites 1604 Convention to Block Theresa May’s Deal

    In that same fractious month, Bercow horrified Leadsom and her boss - Prime Minister - Theresa May when he ruled that she could not bring her Brexit withdrawal bill back to Parliament for a third vote.

    ​He cited a convention dating back to 1604 which says a vote on a motion which is “substantially the same” as a rejected motion should not be permitted.

    Bercow based his decision on Thomas Erskine May’s official parliamentary rulebook, published in 1844.



    Andrea Leadsom, House of Commons, Parliament, John Bercow
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