John Bercow, former UK Commons speaker, defects to Labour
Ex-speaker calls Tories 'reactionary, populist, nationalistic.'
John Bercow, the former speaker of the U.K.’s House of Commons and a Conservative party member since he was 17, has switched political allegiance and joined the opposition Labour party.
Bercow, who after 10 years as speaker was known well beyond the U.K.’s shores for his bellowing cry of “Order! Order!”, 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.”
Bercow said he viewed the Conservative Party today as “reactionary, populist, nationalistic and sometimes even xenophobic.”
A Tory councilor since the mid-1980s and Conservative member of parliament from 1997, Bercow was elected speaker in 2009. Since the speaker is required to be an independent, he left the party then.
In the autumn of 2019, he stood down as speaker after his handling of heated Commons debates on Brexit raised his domestic and international profile. Some Brexiteers accused him of siding with the pro-EU camp. His final year in the post was clouded by accusations that he bullied staffers.
Bercow told the Observer he joined the Labour Party a few weeks ago because he shares its values of “equality, social justice and internationalism. That is the Labour brand.”
While he acknowledged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s campaigning success, Bercow branded him a “lousy governor.”
“I don’t think he has any vision of a more equitable society, any thirst for social mobility or any passion to better the lot of people less fortunate than he is,” the former speaker said of Johnson. “I think increasingly people are sick of lies, sick of empty slogans, sick of a failure to deliver.”
In contrast, Labour leader Keir Starmer is “decent, honourable and intelligent,” Bercow said. However, Bercow acknowledged that “the jury is still out” on whether Starmer, whose party has struggled in recent by-elections, can bring Labour into government.