House of Commons Speaker John Bercow is considering abandoning plans to step down this summer after Cabinet ministers threatened to deny him a peerage because of his alleged Brexit ‘bias’.
Friends told The Observer that he was now ‘seriously reflecting’ on whether to stay on – possibly until 2022.
It follows reported briefings last week by the government that someone who had ‘cheated centuries of procedure’ should not expect to be elevated to the House of Lords.
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow speaks at the conclusion of the debate ahead of a vote on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal in the House of Commons last week
Peerages for the Speaker are normally automatic, but the relationship between Bercow and the government has been tense ever since he permitted an amendment by Tory MP Dominic Grieve earlier this month.
When restarting the Brexit debate the government had to set the rules and timetable for it.
This is called the ‘Business of the House’ motion, and cannot normally be amended by MPs.
Why is John Bercow a controversial Speaker?
Brexit bias: John Bercow has revealed publicly that he voted for Remain in 2016, fuelling claims by Brexiteers he is trying to frustrate Brexit in the Commons.
The claims were fuelled by am anti-Brexit sticker being spotted in a black Land Rover parked outside Mr Bercow’s Commons home – he insisted today the car and sticker belongs to his wife.
Bullying claims: John Bercow has been hit by a number of bullying claims. He is said to have subjected staff to angry outbursts for years, mocking junior officials and leaving staff ‘terrified’.
A former private secretary Kate Emms has said she was left with PTSD after working for him.
Mr Bercow denies all the allegations.
His wife Sally: Sally Bercow has courted controversy since her husband was first elected. She infamously posed in a sheet for a magazine interview soon after Mr Bercow was first elected and she took part in Celebrity Big Brother.
A public Labour supporter, Mrs Bercow’s political views led to claims she undermined the Speaker’s independence.
In 2015 it emerged Sally had an affair with Mr Bercow’s cousin Alan – even leading the couple to move into the family home in Battersea while the Speaker stayed in his grace-and-favour apartment in Parliament.
Expenses: Mr Bercow faced persistent criticism of his official expenses, which have included lavish bills for chauffeur-driven cars, trips abroad and entertaining foreign dignitaries.
Mr Bercow and his family live rent-free in an opulent apartment at parliament, where the taxpayer foots a £109 a month bill for the Arsenal fan’s Sky subscription.
Bias against the Tories: Conservative ministers and MPs have long-complained Mr Bercow favours Labour. He repeatedly hauls ministers to the Commons to answer Urgent Questions and Emergency Debates – far more often than has historically been the case.
He frequently reprimands ministers, often sarcastically, and his behaviour prompted the Cameron Government to launch a near-unprecedented attempt to remove him in 2015.
Mr Bercow provoked further fury by speaking out against Donald Trump and Brexit in defiance of protocol demanding he be impartial.
But Bercow selected Grieve’s amendment, which some some Tory MPs thought was in breach of how House rules have been interpreted in the past- making his enemies think he is acting unilaterally to frustrate Brexit by changing the rules.
A Downing Street spokesman confirmed that in Theresa May’s view ‘there is no such thing as an automatic peerage.’
Despite finding himself unpopular with certain Tory MPs and the government, the speaker of the House has found fans online for his non-nonsense approach to keeping MPs in line.
While politicians debated Theresa May’s Brexit deal and Jeremy Corbyn’s no-confidence motion last week, the silver-haired and foghorn-voiced Speaker of the House was ever-present, most commonly found bellowing ‘ORR-DEEERRRR!’ at his assorted colleagues.
And although some MPs may be short of enthusiasm for the 55-year-old former Conservative, the same cannot be said for many social media users and foreign news organisations.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation published a video to Twitter on Wednesday, titled ‘British Parliament’s House Speaker is not to be trifled with’, which highlights some of his most thunderous and pithy pronouncements.
‘Sitting in the newsroom today and hearing that voice, I thought someone in the control room decided they’d rather watch a ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ movie than news,’ wrote one CBC News editor in response.
Similarly, a video of Mr Bercow published by German news programme Tagesschau has been watched more than 300,000 times on Twitter, with one Spanish user admiring his general demeanour for being ‘hard, accurate, authentic and dangerous’.
His choice in ties has also brought attention, particularly the geometric rainbow neckwear on show on Tuesday.
‘Bercow has the air of a man who’s been dragged out of the kitchen by his wife to break up an argument between their rowdy teenagers, but he’s been home from work for a few hours and has already knocked back half a bottle of Chardonnay,’ replied one Twitter user.
Elsewhere, the wide variety of facial expressions the Speaker employs to cajole MPs into submission was compared to ‘the four stages of a night out’.
On Reddit, Mr Bercow’s sharp choice of words was garnering the most applause, with one Redditor describing his role as ‘functionally the same as that of a secondary school teacher’.
Others, as is often the case, were just there to crack jokes.
‘John, what’s your favourite 80s band? New ORDERRRRR!’ wrote one Redditor.
‘Of course New ORDERRRRRR was formed by members of Joy DIVISIOOOOON,’ replied another, quoting Mr Bercow’s cry on Tuesday, when the house was divided, which was so loud it overloaded microphones in the Commons.