John Bercow is Speaker. For now.

// 23 June 2009

MPs last night elected Conservative John Bercow as Speaker of the House of Commons. The Speaker wields considerable parliamentary power: deciding who gets to speak in debates and when, and in deciding which amendments get tabled and in which order. As we saw in last year’s HEFA debacle, the order and timing of amendments can be critical in determining the outcome of a parliamentary debate (although the Speaker is supposed to be impartial).

What we know about Bercow: he’s a social liberal, and one of the few outspoken Tory pro-choice MPs (and possibly the only outspoken male one – he spoke convincingly at a campaign meeting for Abortion Rights I attended last year); he’s rumoured to have considered ‘crossing the floor’ (defecting to the Labour party); and the Conservatives are not happy about his election. The Daily Mail’s ‘Black Dog’ political columnist calls him the leader of the party’s ‘pro-ethnic and progay’ wing, although he has apparently grown out of some quite dubious political views he held when he was a student. And he’s the first Jewish person to be elected Speaker. More on Bercow here (and pretty much everywhere in the news today).

Is it childish to think that if Nadine Dorries doesn’t like him then I probably do?!

Comments From You

Laura M // Posted 23 June 2009 at 10:48 am

The ‘dubious’ views included being head of the Conservative Monday Club’s “Immigration and Repatriation Committee”. On other fronts he could be way worse, but I have little trust in him for that reason unless I see evidence that he’s clearly and unambiguously renounced/apologised for promoting those crypto-racist policies.

David Kames // Posted 23 June 2009 at 11:45 am

While John Bercow is “my kind of Tory”

I’m not sure he was my top choice for Speaker; firstly, I’m not keen to lose someone who was often a good advocate for some of my “causes” to the impartiality and legislative impotence of the Speakers chair; secondly, I fear that his election is the second worryingly partisan Speaker’s election in a row – I’d hate to see it become a trend. After Michael Martin and now John Bercow, we have the beginning of a precedent that the majority party is allowed to pick a Speaker that suits them, rather than it being a non-partisan office, and an honour for a senior back-bencher.

I await the next Speaker’s election with some trepidation…

Sabre // Posted 23 June 2009 at 11:45 am

“Is it childish to think that if Nadine Dorries doesn’t like him then I probably do?!”

Nope! I’m with you there!

LadyLaxton // Posted 23 June 2009 at 12:09 pm

Not childish at all – to see Ms Dorries shaking her head behind him when he was elected was good enough for me!

John Bercow has done a lot for abortion rights and the pro-choice movement but he is by no means the only male conservative pro-choice MP. Robert Key and Crispin Blunt MP are also supportive of the cause!

Legible Susan // Posted 23 June 2009 at 12:16 pm

Maybe it is childish, but yeah! I read “the Conservatives are not happy about his election”, and thought “result!”

Why “for now”? I thought it was over. Can he still be nobbled?

Caroline // Posted 23 June 2009 at 1:02 pm

While there is debate about the upper limit on abortion, the British Conservative Party ARE pro-choice. In many instances they tend to be more socially liberal than people give them credit for, perhaps people confuse them the American conservatism of the Republican Party.

Anna // Posted 23 June 2009 at 1:52 pm

Caroline – I seem to recall them voting for reduction of the 24-week limit in the last Commons free vote. Not to mention that loathsome little nightmare Dorries (and her male counterpart – and my MP – Liam Fox).

Laura // Posted 23 June 2009 at 2:01 pm

Caroline: in the last abortion vote, the vast majority of Tory MPs voted to reduce the time limit to 20 weeks, and many voted to cut it even further. I fail to see how that respects women’s choice.

maggie // Posted 23 June 2009 at 4:17 pm


As soon as I read that Nadine Dorries disliked him I immediately thought what a great bloke. Your brief summary has strengthened my initial impressions of him.

If the Mail are upset with his appointment then I’m a happy bunny.

Nicole // Posted 23 June 2009 at 10:55 pm


Like Laura Woodhouse mentions above – The Conservative Party do incline towards the pro-life position: Just look at the voting record from the last Parliamentary debate on abortion (or the official party stance currently/leading up to the debate)

Incase anyone is curious, very few women (at a glance I counted two dozen) voted to lower the time limit to 22 weeks. Just a thought.

cb // Posted 24 June 2009 at 6:24 am

Again, like others, Dorries obvious discomfort was a reassurance to me too and if that makes me childish.. so be it!

Claire_M // Posted 24 June 2009 at 8:31 am

@Laura. He did hold objectionable views – ie prominent in Monday club – when he was young. I think he’s been pretty public about renouncing those – and it’s been a substantial change of mind over years. That doesn’t worry me – lots of people change the views they hold – I used to be very socialist and now I’m really center right.

nick // Posted 24 June 2009 at 8:41 am

nice to see a man being praised in F Word and not critisized,hated and generally thought as an evil rapist that deserves to be hung,drawn and quarted .

Lynne Miles // Posted 24 June 2009 at 8:57 am

nice to see a man being praised in F Word and not critisized,hated and generally thought as an evil rapist that deserves to be hung,drawn and quarted

I imagine you must need a lie down and a cup of tea after the shock, Nick

Kate // Posted 24 June 2009 at 9:41 am

Caroline, thanks for the heads up. My silly little brain had been confusing the official opposition of my own country with the Republicans. Oh no wait, actually I think I was just motivated by their own voting record, not to mention the voting intentions of the likely next intake of Tory MPs, who are more anti-choice than the current lot.

HarpyMarx // Posted 24 June 2009 at 1:42 pm

I too muttered ‘result’ when I read that Dorries and Daily Hate can’t stand Bercow.

He has been described more Labour than New Labour!!

Laura // Posted 24 June 2009 at 3:11 pm

A-men to that, Harpymarx!

Steph // Posted 25 June 2009 at 11:19 am

Also worth point out that Bercow has a good record too on voting to scrap Section 28 a number of years ago, and voting for lesbian and gay rights.

I think he could potentially be a good speaker… what concerns me is that no one in the Tory party voted for him, so you wonder how long he might last when the Tories sadly and inevitably get back in :(

Butterflywings // Posted 25 June 2009 at 12:14 pm

Laura, shouldn’t that be-women? ;-) (joking).

But yeah, he sounds OK for a Tory and absolutely, anything that annoys Dorries has to be good! (not childish at all).

Simon // Posted 28 June 2009 at 5:24 pm

The Sunday Telegraph 28.06.2009 reveals more details of John Bercow’s £40,000 private income. Page 7 Quote by Patrick Sawer & Melissa Kite: ‘The new Commons Speaker was accused last night of profiting from his work as a government adviser on special educational needs. John Bercow was paid £40,000 by a health care firm which hired him after he wrote a report that led to a £52 million increase in special needs funding. The MP worked for six months for the Priory Group, which runs a number of special needs schools, giving advice about children who suffer from speech and language difficulties. He attended around five board meetings before he resigned from the post on becoming Speaker last week The payments declared by Mr Bercow in the Register of Members’ Interests will now raise questions about the propriety of MPs taking money from firms working in an area in which they have dealt directly in Parliament.

Tory opponents of Mr Berocow, who was voted in as Michael Martin’s replacement despite little support from his own party, said the disclosures cast fresh doubts on his suitability as Speaker. ” This calls into question his judgement. He appears to have profited from his work as Brown’s adviser”, said one MP.

Mr Bercow, once a member of the right-wing Monday Club but now on the left of his party, has also been criticised for “flipping” the designation of his second home, enabling him to avoid paying capital gains tax.’ Unquote.

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