Speaker John Bercow stuns Commons by announcing he will quit by 31 October

Written by Alain Tolhurst and Anahita Hossein-Pour on 9 September 2019 in News

Bercow said he could stand down as early as Monday night if MPs voted for a snap general election.

Image credit: Parliament TV

John Bercow has stunned MPs by announcing he will quit as House of Commons Speaker by 31 October.

In an emotional statement, Bercow said he could stand down as early as Monday night if MPs voted for a snap general election.

But if they do not, he told the Commons on Monday he would stand down from the post he has held for more than a decade on Hallowe'en.

He told the hushed chamber: “At the 2017 election I promised my wife and children that it would be my last. This is a pledge that I intend to keep.

“If the House votes tonight for an early general election my tenure as speaker and MP will end when this parliament ends.

“If the House does not so vote I have concluded that the least disruptive and most democratic course of action would be for me to stand down at the close of business on Thursday October 31.”

Bercow said that date, as well as being the current Article 50 deadline, would come a week after votes on the Queen’s Speech, saying that period “may be quite lively and it would be best to have an experienced figure in the chair for that short period”.

He said it would be right to have the election to succeed him in that period because it will be “when all members have some knowledge of the candidates”.

He added: “This is far preferable to a contest at the beginning of a parliament when new MPs will not be similarly informed and may find themselves vulnerable to undue institutional influence.”

Speaking pointedly towards the government front bench, he added: “We would not want anyone to be whipped senseless, would we?”

The 56-year-old, who has been the MP for Buckingham since 1997, was close to tears as he paid tribute to his wife Sally, who was watching on from the gallery in the Commons.

He was given a standing ovation by all opposition parties but not by the Tory benches, barring a handful of MPs.

Bercow finished by saying: “This is a wonderful place, filled overwhelmingly by people who are motivated by their notion of the national interest, by their perception of the public good and by their duty not as delegates but as representatives to do what they believe is right for our country.

“We degrade this parliament at our peril. I have served as a member of parliament for 22 years and for the last ten as Speaker.

“This has been the greatest privilege and honour of my professional life for which I will be eternally grateful.

“I wish my successor in the chair the very best fortune in standing up for the rights of honourable and right honourable members individually and for parliament institutionally as the Speaker of the House of Commons. Thank you.”

In response, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Bercow had “totally changed the way in which the job has been done” and said parliament “is the stronger for your being Speaker”.

Paying tribute to him, Corbyn added: “Our democracy is the stronger for your being the Speaker and whatever you do when you finally step down from parliament, you do so with the thanks of a very large number of people, and as one that has made the role of Speaker in the House more powerful, not less powerful. I welcome that.”

Michael Gove, responding for the government, said it was clear Bercow loved the House of Commons and democracy, adding: "Your commitment to your principles and to your constituents is unwavering and an example to others."

The Cabinet Office minister added: "You have done everything in your power in order to ensure not just the continued but the underlined relevance of this place.

"Your love of democracy is transparent in everything that you say and do. I want to, on behalf of myself as an individual and on the behalf of the Conservative Party, to say thank you."

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