Tories to Break Convention, Challenge Remainer Speaker’s Seat in Election

Britain's Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow speaks during a meeting at the Finnish Parliament in Helsinki on October 8, 2012.
VESA MOILANEN/AFP/Getty

The Conservatives are set to break Commons tradition and field a candidate in John Bercow’s constituency at the next election over the Speaker’s pro-Remain bias.

The decision comes after the Speaker allowed MPs to take over House of Commons business last week and pass a bill that aims to stop a no deal Brexit and force Prime Minister Johnson to seek another Brexit delay.

Formerly a Tory, John Bercow gave up his political affiliation when he became Speaker in 2009, a role in which he is supposed to remain non-partisan. The self-confessed Remain voter has been accused of anti-Brexit bias, notably in January where the Speaker bent parliamentary rules — against the advise of Commons clerks — to allow MPs to attempt to derail Brexit, and last week when he gave over the Commons timetable to Labour and Tory rebels.

Usually, the Speaker’s seat is unopposed by all major parties during elections, but writing in the Mail on Sunday, business secretary Andrea Leadsom said that the Conservatives would ignore that convention and stand a candidate against him in his Buckingham seat.

“The current Speaker failed us,” she wrote, saying: “In allowing MPs to use Standing Order No 24 – an important procedure whereby MPs can debate urgent issues – as a route to taking over the Parliamentary timetable and giving power to the Opposition, the Speaker hasn’t just bent the rules, he has broken them.”

Calling it a “flagrant abuse of this process”, the former Leader of the House of Commons continued that the Standing Order “ignores the Government’s right to govern, abuses emergency debates and in this case has put EU negotiations into the hands of the Opposition. It acts in complete disregard to the will of the people – not just on Brexit, but on whom they have chosen to govern them.”

“So it is right that the Conservatives will recognise this fact at the next General Election by standing our candidate against him in Buckingham,” she said.

Mrs Leadsom had clashed with Bercow in the past when the Speaker allegedly said in muttered remarks that she was a “stupid woman” and also reportedly described her as “f*cking useless”. But criticism of the Speaker has also come from his former deputy, with Labour’s Natascha Engel saying last week that Bercow was working in “open opposition to the people, who voted Leave”.

The Speaker, who has said that a second referendum “is possible”, was meant to step down from his role in July after ten years in post. However, in May he denied that that was his intention and said he would stay on to see out Brexit. He later remarked: “The idea that there is an inevitability of a no-deal Brexit would be a quite wrong suggestion. There is no inevitability whatsoever about that.”

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