Wednesday 11 September 2019 4:32 am

DEBATE: Has John Bercow done more harm than good as House of Commons speaker?

Has John Bercow done more harm than good as House of Commons speaker?

Lauren McEvatt, managing director at Morpeth Consulting, says YES.

John Bercow, with his regular abuses of convention and obvious partisanship, has presided over a gross politicisation of the formerly independent nature of the speaker of the House of Commons.

A role which historically sees MPs needing to be dragged towards it, and towards a future without a personal or political voice in the chamber, became instead a tool for his own self-aggrandisement and promotion.

The speaker was never intended to have so recognisable a presence outside the four walls of the chamber, yet Bercow has treated it as his personal fiefdom.

The legacy of the first speaker since the expenses scandal should have been increased visibility for the role of the House – and the speaker’s chair – in the governing processes of the UK.

But instead, he will be remembered for presiding over a culture of “deference and silence” on bullying and harassment, as Dame Laura Cox put it in a damning report, and of an office assaulted by the stench of party politics. Whoever next takes the chair, Bercow has damaged the office’s reputation for independence.

Caroline Pidgeon, a Liberal Democrat London Assembly member, says NO.

In the last decade, John Bercow has ensured that parliament has been able to stand up to the executive, by putting MPs before ministers.

Just look at his record of accepting Urgent Questions. Ministers hate answering Urgent Questions, as it disrupts their diaries, but they play a vital role in the government being held to account when significant developments occur.

In the year 2007 to 2008, the previous speaker permitted just four. Under Bercow, the number soared, with the year 2015 to 2016 seeing 77 Urgent Questions accepted.

Bercow has also worked hard to ensure that the role of parliament is more widely understood by the public, reaching out to young people in particular. He should be congratulated too for setting up a commission to investigate the opportunities digital technology can bring to parliamentary democracy in the UK.

Has he been perfect? Of course not. But has he been a good speaker, putting parliament first? The answer is an unquestionable yes.

Main image credit: Getty

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