How long can John Bercow hang on for as Speaker of the House of Commons? In recent months, he has come under pressure to resign his position amid allegations from former parliamentary staff that he bullied them. Adding to that, today Bercow has found himself the centre of a fresh row over his alleged behaviour.
The Telegraph reports that Bercow called Andrea Leadsom – the Leader of the House – 'a stupid woman'. Curiously, Bercow has not issued a clear denial – instead the Speaker's office has acknowledged that 'strong and differing views were expressed' in the House of Commons:
'Wednesday was an unusual and controversial day in how business was handled in the House by the government and some strong and differing views were expressed on all sides on the subject.'
Once upon a time, Bercow promised to quit the post after no longer than nine years. If he were to follow through with that he would be out by next month – 22 June to be exact. However, it's well known that Bercow has had a (surprise, surprise) change of heart and intends to stay on longer. Friends of Bercow say that the recent allegations have only strengthened his resolve – to go now would be to suggest that he had done something wrong – something he denies.
But will he have a say in the matter? The Conservatives have had an issue with Bercow for some time. Recent events mean that it's very unlikely any Tory MPs would prop him up or back him if it came to a vote. The Tories suspects that he knows this and is all too aware of the fact that it is Labour MPs who keep him in a post. To the chagrin of many Conservatives', they think it only encourages him to be more partisan in the Chamber. But the more damaging allegations that surface, the harder it is to see how Bercow can stay in his role indefinitely.
While Labour MPs may be quite at ease with Bercow's penchant for a near hour-long PMQs or taking Conservative ministers to task at length in the Chamber, it's much harder to turn a blind eye to claims of intimidating and inappropriate behaviour.