Oust Bercow?

The Conservatives want to break convention

Download Perspecs

Will the Tories manage to oust John Bercow by contesting his seat?

By Joe Harker

The Conservatives have said they will stand a candidate in Buckingham, the constituency of John Bercow, Speaker of the House, at the next general election.

Bercow has been a thorn in the government's side, forcing them to undergo parliamentary scrutiny they attempted to avoid during the Brexit process.

In particular his granting of an emergency debate under Standing Order 24 allowed parliament to debate and pass legislation forcing the prime minister to seek an extension to Article 50, with Tory MPs voting against the government kicked out of the party and robbing Boris Johnson of his working majority.

The Claim:

Sky News reports the Tories argue that Bercow has "failed" in his duty to be impartial as Speaker, thus requiring replacement.

The decision to allow parliament their emergency debate was described by Andrea Leadsom as an act that had not "just bent the rules, he has broken them".

She argued Bercow had engaged in "flagrant abuse" of the parliamentary process and the government claims the Speaker of the House is no longer impartial, which is something parliamentary democracy cannot really function under.

Often thought to be pro-EU, Bercow has regularly given MPs the chance to have their say against a government that has pressed on with Brexit against all evidence from the civil service.

It is against convention for a major party to field candidates against the Speaker in a general election but it is not illegal. There is nothing beyond doing the decent thing that would prevent the Tories from running a candidate against Bercow in a general election and the results could see him out.

The Counter Claim:

Nothing Bercow has done is unconstitutional and he has championed parliamentary sovereignty (that thing Brexiteers pretended Brexit was about) at every turn, ensuring the government is put under proper scrutiny.

To do away with a Speaker who has stood up for parliament's right to participate in the Brexit process and blocked the government from doing whatever they want despite not having a majority for it is a horrendous blow to British democracy.

British politics operates on conventions and obligations, though the past two prime ministers have driven a bulldozer through many conventions in order to persist with their Brexit strategies.

To destroy yet another one would be disastrous for democracy, a government targeting a speaker who has protected parliament's sovereignty and right to play a part in the UK leaving the EU.

If Bercow appears to be in opposition to the government's Brexit strategy that is because he is facilitating parliament, which is actually in opposition to the government's Brexit strategy.

There are more MPs in opposition than government and they have a part to play in the democratic process.

Governments operate with the consent of parliament, which is convenient for them as governments tend to have a majority in parliament, but the current one doesn't and is trying to bypass the House of Commons anyway. Bercow is well within his rights to fight for parliament to have a say.

The Facts:

For a major party like Labour or the Conservatives, standing a candidate against the Speaker of the House in a general election is considered a breach of convention.

The speaker stands in their constituency during a general election as seeking re-election to their position within parliament. They are expected to give up party affiliation when taking on the role in parliament.

Buckingham is considered a safe Tory seat, Bercow has won it three time as a Conservative MP and three times as Speaker. It is very possible that a Tory candidate would win the seat from him, though they may face some competition from the Brexit Party who have already declared Andrew Bell as their candidate.

In 2010 Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, then leader of UKIP, tried to run against Bercow in the seat and came third.

Bercow had intended to stand down in the summer but the continuing Brexit process changed his mind, with the Speaker believing it was necessary to remain in the role to ensure the government didn't bypass parliament to secure Brexit, an outcome Bercow said he would "fight with every breath in my body".

Download Perspecs
Download Perspecs