Should Bercow go?

Jordan Bernstein is an undergraduate at Pembroke College

Bercow’s statements last week, if they show anything beyond a practised partiality and degradation of the office of the Speaker, confirm what has become the unuttered truth in our society: mainstream dissent from liberal values is no longer acceptable. It does not matter that we are about to isolate ourselves from Europe, nor that maintaining a close relationship with the United States is in our best interests on both a trade and defence rationalisation. It does not matter, even, if you represent an office which is meant to transcend the fleetingness of party politics and project a non-partisan parliamentary power. No. Whoever you are and whatever the situation, if you do not do everything in your power to undermine the democratically elected leader of the free world, you are just as bad as Trump himself.

This is not to pass any judgement on Trump’s policies; indeed, his rhetoric during the campaign and his first few weeks in office belie a distinct lack of basic understanding of the business of government, and his ill-thought-out policies are deeply problematic and contrary to British values of tolerance and diversity. But wherefore it is the prerogative of the Government to exercise the powers in the way it deems to be in the nation’s best interest, it is for Her Majesty’s Opposition, and not the Speaker of the House, to disagree. Opposition parties traditionally do not field candidates to stand against the Speaker, nor does he vote on legislation; this is precisely because his impartiality can be relied upon. And yet when we see that Bercow is in open defiance of Government policy, it is this impartiality that is called into question. His irresponsible decision to reveal where he stood on Brexit before negotiations have even begun is simply the icing on the cake. Surely, his days are numbered.

What is perhaps most irritating of all is that Bercow’s comments on Trump were unnecessary; not only would his supposed impartiality have barred him from being criticised if Trump were to have addressed the House; no one was expecting him to make a statement so unequivocal and damaging to this country’s interests. Perhaps, we might say, his response was merely a manifestation of the fact that blind liberalism, more than common sense, has become the new political neutrality.

Bercow has brought much needed reform to the House of Commons during his tenure. In terms of making sure that the Government is held to account, with various measures to include more backbenchers in debates and renewed insistences on ministerial appearances in the House, he has performed admirably. The bungled plot under Cameron to bring Bercow down was, moreover, nothing short of political manoeuvring of the shoddiest kind. But current claims that Bercow has overstepped make it hard to reject James Duddridge MP’s claims that he has support at all levels of Parliament to send the speaker packing. We are told that the last thing we need right now, as we begin negotiations, is chaos in the Commons. But chaos is, I would suggest, preferable to constitutional crisis.