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Order no more? Iconic UK House of Commons Speaker Bercow to step down amid Brexit chaos

Order no more? Iconic UK House of Commons Speaker Bercow to step down amid Brexit chaos
The House of Commons’ iconic Speaker John Bercow announced he’ll step down on October 31, or sooner if an early election is held. One of the UK’s longest serving speakers has quit, then, as a No-Deal Brexit keeps gaining momentum.

An avalanche of predominantly Tory MPs have decided enough is enough and quit the House of Commons due to huge pressure being exerted on them over Brexit. Now Bercow, MP for Buckingham, has said that he will not stand in a forthcoming election – news that has been greeted with cheers from Conservative Party MPs who accused him in recent weeks of trying to facilitate ‘Remainers’ in their efforts to thwart a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

Holding the position since 2009, Bercow is the longest-serving speaker since the Second World War, and has called “order!” over four parliaments and under four prime ministers.

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During that time, Bercow’s flowery language and thunderous pronouncements rang out in the house, with his voice becoming likely the most recognizable in parliament. His tenure inspired memes galore and many of his most memorable moments and smackdowns went viral online – with some even putting them to music.

The speaker scolded PM Boris Johnson during a session of Prime Minister’s Questions last week, warning him to “observe the rules” after Johnsn referred to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn by name instead of ‘the MP from Islington North.’

Even the foreign press picked up on Bercow’s iconic status, with Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant publishing a profile quipping that the speaker offered “the only order” in British politics in the midst of a very disorderly Brexit. A German TV channel put together a compilation of Bercow bellowing “order!” in the chamber, while Radio France Internationale named him their ‘European of the week’ back in January.

READ MORE: Brexiteers pour scorn & Remainers pay tribute as Bercow says he’ll step down

Bercow also made international headlines in 2017 when he banned US President Donald Trump from speaking in parliament due to his record of “racism and sexism.”

Over the past several weeks, the speaker bent parliamentary rules, giving MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit the chance to pass legislation blocking such an eventuality. Conservatives were furious, and Business Secretary Angela Leadsom called Bercow’s move a “flagrant abuse” of the parliamentary process.

Though Bercow said that he had planned on stepping down for family reasons, his departure comes amid a wave of deselections and defections within the Conservative Party.

MP Mark Prisk said minutes earlier that he would not stand in another general election, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s brother Jo resigned from government last Tuesday, followed by Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd two days later. With Bercow, it looks as though Brexit has claimed another political career.

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Prior to his announcement, Leadsom had stated on Sunday that the Tories would field a candidate to oust Bercow if a general election were called, accusing the speaker of siding with the opposition over Brexit. Though the speaker usually runs unopposed in an election, Leadsom said in the Mail on Sunday that Bercow had “failed” in his role as “a politically impartial, independent umpire of proceedings.”

Some of the most passionate farewells on Monday came from the Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn said that the charismatic speaker had “totally changed the way in which the job has been done,” while Labour MP David Lammy described the speaker as “a true protector of our democracy.”

If the House does not vote for an early election, Bercow’s last week on the job will likely be a tumultuous one. With parliament suspended later on Monday, MPs now have only one week in session at the end of October before Britain is set to leave the EU on October 31.

Johnson’s plans to go ahead with ‘no-deal’ Brexit if need be were thwarted last week, after MPs voted in favor of a bill which would force him to seek a new three-month extension from Brussels if there is no new deal by October 19. MPs also voted against a motion put forward by Johnson calling for a snap election, leaving both him and opposition MPs in a bind as deadline day approaches.

Despite the legislation, Johnson has insisted that he will not request an extension from Europe, saying he’d rather be dead in a ditch – and his supporters say there are other ways he can sabotage MPs’ efforts to prevent a ‘no-deal’ exit. One of the stranger options reportedly considered by the PM to force an election would be to call a vote of no confidence in his own government.

Whatever happens, Bercow’s last week likely will not be an orderly one.

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