John Bercow: why has former Tory MP joined Labour, is he still an MP, and what did he say about Boris Johnson?

The former speaker has described the PM as a ‘lousy governor’ and said ‘the jury is out’ on Keir Starmer

John Bercow: why has former Tory MP joined Labour, is he still an MP, and what did he say about Boris Johnson? (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
John Bercow: why has former Tory MP joined Labour, is he still an MP, and what did he say about Boris Johnson? (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)

Former Conservative MP and speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow has defected from the Conservatives to the Labour party in the last few weeks.

The former Tory revealed his defection to Labour in an interview with the Observer, in which he described the prime minister as a “lousy governor”.

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Who is John Bercow?

John Bercow is a former MP and speaker of the house who left parliament in 2019.

First elected to represent the Buckingham constituency in 1997, Bercow served in two shadow ministerial posts before being elected as speaker of the house in 2009.

Bercow served as the speaker, a politically neutral role, for 10 years, and oversaw some of the most controversial moments in recent political history during his tenure.

After standing down in October 2019, Bercow declined to stand for parliament in the 2019 general election.

Bercow attracted controversy as speaker over what some perceived to be acts of impartiality.

However, Bercow and many others maintain that he acted in the best interests of parliament, sometimes against the executive, as is the speaker’s role.

Among other things, Bercow broke convention to allow a vote on an amendment to a

government business motion.

This required then-prime minister Theresa May to table a motion on alternatives to the proposed Brexit deal in the event it was voted down.

Bercow also prevented the government from bringing a third vote on the withdrawal agreement in March 2019, citing an old convention which prevents motions which are “substantially the same” being voted on again once they’ve been rejected.

While it is the convention for speakers of the House of Commons to be given peerages and to then serve in the House of Lords, Boris Johnson failed to grant Bercow this privilege after he stepped down in 2019.

Many believe this failure to grant Bercow his position in the House of Lords is due to his perceived lack of impartiality and the problems he caused for the government over Brexit.

The former speaker has also been accused of bullying on several occasions, with one former member of staff publicly stating he had been bullied by Bercow.

Another person who had worked under Bercow filed an official complaint which is thought to relate to bullying allegations, and three Conservative MPs resigned from a group chaired by Bercow over his handling of bullying and abuse claims.

Bercow has previously been rumoured to be considering a move from the Conservatives to Labour.

After Conservative MP Quentin Davies left the Tories for Labour in 2007, many expected that Bercow would do the same, though he did not do so.

What did he say about Boris Johnson?

The former speaker has been highly critical of Boris Johnson since leaving parliament.

Since announcing his decision to join the Labour party, Bercow said the prime minister “has only a nodding acquaintance with the truth,” but that his decision to leave the party was “not personal”.

In an interview with the Observer, he said Johnson was a “lousy governor”

He said: He is a successful campaigner but a lousy governor. I don’t think he has any vision of a more equitable society, any thirst for social mobility or any passion to better the lot of people less fortunate than he is.

"I think increasingly people are sick of lies, sick of empty slogans, sick of a failure to deliver.’’

Appearing on Good Morning Britain in May, he described Johnson as a “liar” and said there were many examples of him not telling the truth.

What has he said about his decision to defect to Labour?

Bercow said he decided to join Labour because he thinks the government “needs to be replaced” and Labour is the only party which can do that.

He also said that “the jury is out” on Keir Starmer, although he is “decent, honourable and intelligent”.

He said: “I am motivated by support for equality, social justice and internationalism. That is the Labour brand. The conclusion I have reached is that this government needs to be replaced. The reality is that the Labour party is the only vehicle that can achieve that objective. There is no other credible option.”

On Starmer, he said: “The jury is out. I am, however, hopeful because I observed Keir Starmer at close quarters from the Speaker’s chair. He may not be Bill Clinton or Barack Obama but he is decent, honourable and intelligent and he came into politics as public service.

“I believe that Keir Starmer is motivated by an earnest and consuming desire to better the lot of the vast majority of the people of this country who do not enjoy the privileges that he does.”