An avalanche of right wing abuse, a vote of no confidence and a raging media war: It has certainly been an incredibly gruelling week for John Bercow; seven days in the political limelight is perhaps enough for a life time.
Speaking in the House of Commons on the 6th February 2017, Speaker John Bercow argued the address of a foreign leader is not “an automatic right but an earned honour,” and therefore an opposition to racism, sexism and the support of a separation of powers is a hugely important consideration when debating such invitation. In light of the recent migration ban, Bercow also declared he was personally “strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster”
As the Speaker of the House of Commons, Bercow holds the most distinguished and prestigious role with the highest level of authority within the Palace of Westminster. The Speaker presides over debate, determining which members can speak; he maintains order during debate, and advocates the punishment of MPs who have broken the rules of the House.
Within this role political impartiality holds the upmost importance; the speaker must remain politically neutral to honour British democracy. Mistaking his role as Speaker for spokesman has prompted accusations of hypocrisy and inconsistency. Authoritarian leaders such as Xi Jinping, President of totalitarian China, and the Emir of Kuwait have been welcome despite their atrocious human rights records.
Taking a stance flagrantly contrary to the elected government has also undermined and compromised the efforts of the British government to uphold the special relationship with the US. Bercow’s comments have also led to a rise in right wing abuse, leading to the legitimisation of Trump supporters. With arrogance and insolence Piers Morgan tweeted: “Britain now officially thinks China has more acceptable values than America, this is complete and utter madness...”
“John Bercow shoots for anti-Trump hysteria, what a silly man my apologies @realdonaldtrump.” With liberal sentiment in mind, the hypocrisy of Bercow’s public stance has discredited any possible parliamentary condemnation of Trump.
Elected as the House of Commons Speaker in 2010, John Bercow renounced all affiliation with his previous membership of the Conservative Party and relinquished his right to vote, debate and to voice partisan opinion.
Has Bercow damaged Britain’s democratic apparatus? Or does his championship of British liberal values manifest a required opposing stance to President Trump? Theresa May’s deficient, hesitant and weary refute of Trump’s executive order has left her government rather absent of opinion.
Bercow’s comments have been applauded by the shadow cabinet; intervention was welcomed by Jeremy Corbyn, who called for President Trump’s state visit to be postponed and suggested Bercow had “spoken clearly about Donald Trump and his misogyny, racism and behaviour towards international law (…) and I welcome the statement.”
And. while John Bercow’s comments may have been said out of turn, it should not have been left to him to uphold British values such as diversity, and equality of gender, race and religion.