John Bercow has announced that he will stand down as Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons by October 31 — the day Britain is set to leave the European Union — after a decade in the position.
Bercow, whose cries of, “Order, Order!” have gone viral amid months of Brexit chaos, has at times been a divisive figure in the Speaker’s chair.
His proponents have hailed him as an unparalleled ally to backbench MPs, while his detractors have criticized him for his interventions in the Brexit debate.
Bercow — a larger-than-life character in British politics — told Parliament on Monday that he would quit his job by October 31, but said he would stand down sooner if MPs vote for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s snap general election.
Opposition parties have said they will not back Johnson’s second bid for an election Monday, in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit, so it is likely Bercow will leave at the end of October.
“Throughout my time as speaker I have sought to increase the relative authority of this legislature, for which I will make absolutely no apology to anyone, anywhere, at any time,” Bercow told MPs.
“To deploy a perhaps dangerous phrase, I have also sought to be the backbenchers’ backstop,” he added.
“This has been … the greatest privilege and honor of my professional life for which I will be eternally grateful.”
The timing of his departure is likely to frustrate hardline Brexiteer MPs, who say Bercow is biased against them.
The Speaker has historically been a low-profile, politically impartial figure that oversees parliamentary debates, deciding who can speak and choosing amendments. But the logjam over Brexit has made Bercow into something of a celebrity, with the Speaker often exerting Parliament’s authority over the government.
In an interview with CNN earlier this year, Bercow described his role as a facilitator of the views of ordinary lawmakers.
“In grappling with the biggest current issue facing us, Brexit: No resolution of the matter has yet been attained. It is a concern and it isn’t something that the Speaker can determine. The Speaker can to try and help the House to decide on such issues and give it the freedom to breathe, if I can put it that way.”
But those on the government benches have accused Bercow of using his position to throw up roadblocks to a no-deal departure, and mask his own personal disappointment at the UK’s decision to leave the EU using his job’s neutrality.
Bercow’s decision to stay in the Speaker’s chair until October 31 makes it a real possibility that another remain-backing MP, or at least one opposed to a no-deal Brexit, could be selected by Parliament. His move could, therefore, be read as a serving of revenge.