Speaker John Bercow has confirmed he will stand down as early as tonight, and had a message for those working in Westminster: “We degrade parliament at our own peril”.
Intervening in what promises to be a busy afternoon and evening, Bercow told MPs that he would stand down on Monday night if MPs backed Boris Johnson’s motion for an early General Election.
If MPs do not – as is widely expected – he will stand down on 31 October, saying that would be the “least disruptive and most democratic” date.
His announcement came days after business Andrea Leadsom revealed plans to put up a Tory candidate against Bercow in his Buckingham constituency during the next election in protest at him allowing “rebel alliance” MPs to take control of the Commons agenda last week.
Earlier today, the Chairman of the Buckingham Conservative Association told the BBC that the decision to stand a candidate against Mr. Bercow was “long overdue.”
Bercow has been speaker since 2008, and already held the role for a year longer than he had originally said.
The controversial Commons figure teared up as he thanked his family, including wife Sally, and went onto praise MPs for the work they have done.
He told colleagues the work they had done was important, adding they acted “not as delegates, but as representatives to do what they believe is right for our country”.
In a sideswipe at Johnson and his chief adviser Dominic Cummings, Bercow added: “We degrade this parliament at our peril”.
Although he received a standing ovation from, and was paid tribute by, many MPs, the speaker has generated much ire from those both inside and outside parliament.
Most recently he has been seen as helping pro-Remain MPs to fight against government, frequently siding with rebels despite supposedly taking a neutral stance.
But the man, who told MPs he had “never lost a night of sleep from work”, also came under fire after allegations of bullying surfaced last year.
A Newsnight investigation in March 2018 uncovered a number of allegations about Bercow, including one former member of his team who was signed off sick after Commons authorities were told that she had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
A subsequent report saw both Women and Equalities Committee chairwoman Maria Miller and senior Labour MP Sir Kevin Barron call for him to resign.
The report, by Dame Laura Cox, said bullying and harassment were not being dealt with in the Commons due to a culture of “acquiescence and silence”. She said it would be “difficult to envisage how the necessary changes can be successfully delivered, and the confidence of the staff restored, under the current senior house administration” – seen as a clear indication she felt the Speaker should step down.
After Bercow pledged to step down, Parliamentary researcher and co-founder of Women in Westminster Tara O’Reilly said that it was important not to “gloss over the slow progress” tackling sexual harassment in the corridors of power when assessing the Speaker’s career.
(Main image: Getty)