John Bercow ditches ‘xenophobic’ Tories and defects to Labour – here’s how people have reacted

<p>John Bercow</p>

John Bercow

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He spent more than 10 years in the limelight as Speaker of the House of Commons.

Now John Bercow is back in the media and political spotlight after his decision to switch allegiances to join the Labour Party.

The former Conservative MP, who became the scourge of Brexiteers as Commons Speaker, announced on Saturday that he had joined Labour in recent weeks, saying he regards the Tories under Prime Minister Boris Johnson as “reactionary, populist, nationalistic and sometimes even xenophobic”.

“I am motivated by support for equality, social justice and internationalism. That is the Labour brand,” he told the Observer.

“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.”

Speaking on Sunday, Bercow said his decision was “not personal” against Johnson (but went on to lay into the Prime Minister for having a “nodding acquaintance with the truth”), adding that it was “something that changed in me”.

He told Sky’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme: “I think that the utter contempt with which he has treated Parliament is lamentable, and I think it has exacerbated the very strong feelings of resentment towards him, because I think a lot of people feel that’s not the way to behave...

“But no, I have over a long period evolved my political thinking.

“I wasn’t a member of a party throughout my tenure as speaker, because it would have been quite wrong to be... Now I’m a private citizen, as Robert Buckland says, I’m entitled to take a political view. And my view is a left of centre view. I identify with Labour values, Labour principles, Labour policies.”

Figures from across the political spectrum have reacted to the news.

The office of Labour leader Keir Starmer declined to comment on Bercow joining the party.

But 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 Bercow had been “scrupulously fair” in his treatment of MPs, including the former Labour leader.

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.”

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland accused Bercow of having diminished his influence by coming out in support of Labour.

Meanwhile, Brexiteer peer Kate Hoey had this burn:

And Tory MP Simon Clarke had plenty to say...

While Tory minister James Cleverly gave the announcement the meme treatment:

And, of course, Nigel Farage weighed in:

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

Bercow served as a Tory MP for 12 years until he was elected Speaker in 2009.

He survived attempts to remove him from the chair, including from former colleagues in the Tory party, revelations about his expenses and allegations of bullying – which he denied.

He 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.

In September 2019, he announced his intention to stand down from the role, as well as MP for Buckingham, and vacated the Speaker’s chair at the end of October that year.

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 Starmer, 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.”

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