John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons who has gained some level of notoriety during the course of the Brexit debate has announced he will resign his position before the end of next month, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson puts himself on a collision course with the nation’s predominantly anti-Brexit Parliament, as he prepared to end the longest Parliamentary session in modern history Monday.
The announcement of speaker Bercow, a remain voter widely perceived in Westminster as having acted as an activist speaker to influence the course of the Brexit debate in parliament, perhaps against the traditions of neutrality associated with the office, came after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he would be suspending Parliament tonight.
The suspension of Parliament, known in Westminster jargon as Prorogation, has been a controversial move among anti-Brexit campaigners who believe the move has been engineered to minimise their ability to present Britain leaving the European Union at the end of October. The constitutional mechanisms to trigger the suspension were activated in August but left the government with a free hand over when exactly to begin the Prorogation, however it has now been called for tonight.
The present Parliament is the longest in modern British political history, no Parliament having sat for so many days since the English Civil War.
The precise timing of the prorogation, brought immediately after tonight’s planned vote on whether to hold a snap general election, appears to be intended to focus the minds of Parliamentarians. While they voted against a general election last week, with Parliament going out of session tonight and not returning until right before the official Brexit day, fighting and winning a general election on an anti-Brexit platform may be the only option they have left.
The timing also appears to have precipitated speaker Bercow’s announcement of his impending retirement from the chair. When precisely he goes is contingent on the result of Monday’s election vote — if no election is called, he will stand down on Brexit day itself, October 31st. This, Bercow said, was the least disruptive and democratic day for his departure. Yet if a general election is called today, the speaker implied he would quit tonight.
The announcement comes just hours after the Conservatives announced they would be unseating Bercow at the election anyway, an affront to the traditions of Parliament where speakers enjoy the privilege of standing election unopposed, but one of the few legitimate ways to get rid of a rogue speaker.