Defiant John Bercow vows to face down MPs' 'abuse' following Commons row

Posted On: 
10th January 2019

John Bercow has insisted he will not change how he conducts his role as Speaker despite facing "abuse" over his handling of a controversial Brexit amendment.

John Bercow insisted "abuse" from MPs was "water off a duck’s back"
PA Images

The Speaker was roundly attacked yesterday for accepting pro-Remain Tory Dominic Grieve's bid for an MPs' vote amid claims he had ignored the advice of Commons clerks.  

The amendment, which was subsequently passed, gives Theresa May just three days to layout the next course of action if her deal is voted down, instead of the 21 she had initially.

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Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom - who yesterday demanded Mr Bercow disclose his officials’ advice in a points-of-order pile-on that lasted over an hour - today accused Mr Bercow of acting “arbitrarily”.

Following a question from the SNP’s Pete Wishart on whether she should accept Parliament “taking control”, Ms Leadsom said at Business Questions: “The issue is that the role of the chair is to uphold the rules that Parliament has made for itself not to arbitrarily change those rules."

“Yesterday was not an example of Parliament taking back control, it was an example of a differentiation between those members who were told it was unamendable and undebatable and those who were told differently.”

Mr Bercow promptly shot back at the Cabinet minister, who he has sparred with on several occasions before, insisting: “There was nothing arbitrary about the conduct of the Chair yesterday.”

He added: “This Speaker is well aware of how to go about the business of chairing the proceedings of the House, because he’s been doing so for nine-and-a-half years and I hope colleagues will understand when I say that I require no lessons or lectures from others about how to discharge my obligations to Parliament and in support of the rights of backbench parliamentarians.

“I have been doing it, I’m continuing to do it and I will go on doing it no matter how much abuse I get from whatever quarter. It is water off a duck’s back as far as I am concerned.”


A further row broke out as Ms Leadsom accused Labour MP Chris Leslie of “mansplaining” after he demanded that she make clear that the Commons schedule will allow for the Prime Minister to outline a way forward following defeat.

The arch-Remainer said the frontbencher was “struggling to reconcile herself” and was “a bit sore” at having been defeated on the amendment.

Ms Leadsom responded, saying: “I’m slightly disappointed at the honourable gentleman for helpfully mansplaining my job for me.

“I am perfectly able to carry out my job and I have already answered the question as put by the honourable gentleman that the Prime Minister will of course abide by the terms of the Grieve amendment.”