Marching orderrrs! John Bercow bows out in last day as Commons Speaker

Marching orderrrs! John Bercow bows out in last day as Commons Speaker

Regular Parliament watchers may or may not miss his inimitable style, such as his bellowing shouts of 'order'

Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Today is John Bercow’s last day as Commons Speaker after over a decade in the chair.

Bercow announced his intention to stand down from the position in September, saying the timing was the “least disruptive and most democratic course of action.”

He would have relinquished the role sooner if MPs had supported Boris Johnson’s initial attempt for an early general election in September.

Bercow will resign as MP for Buckingham – a seat he has held for 22 years – which will be hotly contested in the general election this December.

Regular Parliament watchers may remember his inimitable style, such as his bellowing shouts of “order” and “division, clear the lobby”, but those quirks are what brought him international attention when the eyes of the world became fixed on the Commons throughout 2019.

The 56-year-old son of a Jewish taxi driver, who entered Parliament in 1997, held several shadow ministerial positions before taking the Speaker’s chair in 2009.

Speaking to Jewish News in 2015, he said: “My father was Jewish and I went to Finchley Reform Synagogue and had a barmitzvah, although I am secular. My mother is not Jewish, but she converted.”

A year earlier, he told the paper how he was left “saddened and shaken” following an  antisemitic incident.

“When a pupil who knew my mother was not born Jewish – she converted – said to me ‘of course you’re not really Jewish’. I was upset by this and I went to tell my father. Dad said to me – and it probably sounds rather cynical but it was well meant – ‘just remember you’re quite Jewish enough for the Nazis’. He told me to be proud of what you are and stand up for it. That is what the British Jewish community has done.”

He went to school in Margaret Thatcher’s Finchley constituency and first got involved as politics as a teenager before attending Essex University, where he gained a reputation as something of a firebrand.

Bercow became a member of the hardline Tory Monday Club, notorious for its “hang Nelson Mandela” slogans, joining its Immigration and Repatriation Committee, before leaving the pressure group at the age of 20, saying some of its members’ views about immigration were “unpalatable”.

Bercow married Sally Illman in 2002 and they have three children together.

The marriage has been a source of attention throughout his tenure, with his wife becoming a household name after posing for a photoshoot in Speaker’s House draped in a sheet, and appearing on Celebrity Big Brother. In 2015 she admitted she had been a “terrible wife” amid reports of an affair with her husband’s cousin.

Attention will now turn to what Bercow will do next, with speculation focused on him becoming a reality TV star. Bookmaker Coral have him at 4/5 to be a contestant on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! and 10/1 to go on and win it.

There is also speculation that he will become an after-dinner speaker, with Ladbrokes offering odds of 1/10 on that career move taking place in the next 12 months.

William Hill is offering odds of 1/1 that Bercow will have a number one selling book before the end of 2020, 20/1 that he will be the next Prime Minister, and 100/1 that he will be the next mayor of London.

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