Skip to Content

Coffee House

Bercow’s ‘bollocks to Brexit’ sticker disgraces his office

13 March 2018

11:36 AM

13 March 2018

11:36 AM

‘I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak, in this place, but as the house is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here,’ said speaker William Lenthall, the idea being that it was parliament’s views – not his own – that mattered.

John Bercow has a message to his predecessor: bollocks to that. Or more specifically: bollocks to Brexit. That is the message printed on a sticker emblazoned on a car parked in the speaker’s personal parking spot outside parliament, as revealed by Guido Fawkes.

Credit: Guido Fawkes

If Bercow’s choice of number plate – B13 RC0 – is bad enough, the sticker itself is unforgivable. A speaker is supposed to be impartial, and nowhere is this more important than on an issue as divisive as Brexit. Parliament has, and will continue to come under, intense scrutiny as it votes on key legislation in the Brexit process. Any whiff of suggestion that the Commons Speaker is opposed to Brexit will make the job of MPs much harder. It will also inevitably wind up those who accuse Parliament of trying to block Brexit. Such fears may well be wrong, but Bercow’s foolish sticker will do little to calm matters. Groups on both sides of the referendum debate are already at each other’s throats, this message will make things worse. It’s also worth asking: when Brexit is next discussed in the Commons, can the public trust Bercow’s choice of who speaks in debates?

Of course, this isn’t the first time that Bercow’s impartiality has been called into question. The Speaker went above his station last year by saying Donald Trump was not welcome to speak in Parliament. It wasn’t Bercow’s place to make that point but that didn’t stop him piping up. He was also happy to admit to a group of students that he voted Remain in the referendum, in an apparent breach of convention.

Now, it seems, he is at it again. This latest transgression though is arguably more serious. It also comes at a time where Bercow is under pressure on a number of fronts. The Speaker is facing allegations that he bullied a female staff member (Bercow denies the allegations). Given this, a wiser speaker would recuse themselves from any debate on the topic of bullying. Not Bercow. When MPs gathered to discuss the subject in the chamber yesterday afternoon, Bercow sat in pride of place in his chair.

The calls for Bercow to go are growing and this latest matter makes it hard to disagree with those who say the Speaker’s time is up. In 2009, Michael Martin resigned ‘in order that unity can be maintained’. Perhaps it is time to Bercow to listen to his immediate predecessor, if not the wise words of Lenthall. After all, if Bercow does feel so strongly about Brexit then he is entitled to his view. But so long as he remains Speaker it isn’t his place to say so.


Show comments
Close