John Bercow has once again broken with convention. The former House of Commons Speaker has defied three centuries of tradition by announcing a return to party politics post-speakership with an ‘extraordinary broadside‘ against Boris Johnson.
His reason for joining the Labour party – or making the move official, as Tory wags now quip – is primarily his disgust at the ‘reactionary, populist, nationalistic and sometimes even xenophobic’ Conservative party and his support for the ‘Labour brand’ of ‘equality, social justice and internationalism.’ Quite a claim for a onetime committee secretary of the hard-right Monday Club who backed the ‘assisted repatriation’ of immigrants.
In typical Bercow style, even the news was broken ungraciously: after the Mail on Sunday’s diminutive scoophound Brendan Carlin approached him with the story, Bercow took it to the left-leaning Observer to ensure a more favourable write up instead. The reaction to the announcement has been (predictably) along party lines: Tory MP Chris Clarkson wrote ‘Good riddance to an appalling character’ while Andrew Bridgen claimed the ‘cynical and cunning’ move was ‘so he can be nominated as a Labour peer and join the HoL and the Govt won’t be able to block it.’ Steerpike could not possibly comment…
On the Labour side meanwhile the reaction was jubilant – Karl Turner said he was ‘delighted’ his ‘friend’ had joined with John McDonnell saying he had ‘won our respect’ when Speaker for being ‘scrupulously fair in his treatment’ of MPs. Khalid Mahmood even went so far as to call him ‘Comrade John’ whose ‘vision to support equality, social justice and internationalism is one I welcome’ alongside a smiling selfie of him with the former Speaker and the hashtag #LabourValues.