Commons Speaker John Bercow announces he will step down by October 31

9 September 2019, 15:48

John Bercow has announced he will stand down as an MP and as Speaker
John Bercow has announced he will stand down as an MP and as Speaker. Picture: Sky

By Asher McShane

John Bercow has announced he will stand down as Commons Speaker by 31 October in dramatic scenes in parliament today.

An emotional Mr Bercow said serving as Speaker of the House had been "the greatest honour of my professional life".

Watched by his wife Sally from the public gallery, Mr Bercow said: "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.

Mr Bercow continued: "Least disruptive because that date will fall shortly after the votes on the Queen's speech expected on October 21 and 22.

"The week or so after that may be quite lively, and it would be best to have an experienced figure in the chair for that short period.

"Most democratic because it will mean that a ballot is held when all members have some knowledge of the candidates.

"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."

Mr Bercow said: "I could not serve this House without a small but superb team in the Speaker's House, my wife Sally and my three children Oliver, Freddie and Jemima."

He added: "From the bottom of my heart, I thank them all profusely."

Mr Bercow's wife Sally Bercow could be seen smiling on from the gallery.

There were gasps and cheers from the opposition benches as Mr Bercow addressed the Commons.

Mr Bercow added: "We would not want anyone to be whipped senseless, would we?

"Throughout my time as Speaker, I have sought to increase the relative authority of this legislature for which I will make absolutely no apology."

Mr Bercow added that he could not have served as Speaker without the support of MPs.

He said: "I could also not have served without the support of this House and its members, past and present."

Mr Bercow added: "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."

He continued: "We degrade this Parliament at our peril."

Mr Bercow concluded: "This has been, let me put it explicitly, the greatest privilege and honour of my professional life for which I will be eternally grateful.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn praised Mr Bercow for being a "superb" Speaker.

He told the Commons: "In your role as Speaker you have totally changed the way in which the job has been done. You've reached out to people across the whole country."

Mr Corbyn added: "This Parliament is stronger for your being Speaker. 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.

Labour MP Darren Jones described Mr Bercow as "a champion of parliamentary sovereignty" after the Commons Speaker announced he was to stand down as an MP at the next general election

"John Bercow has been a champion of parliamentary sovereignty and a champion for backbenchers like me being able to hold the executive to account," Mr Jones tweeted.

"He'll be missed by many of us in the @HouseofCommons. The next Speaker has big shoes to fill."

This story is being updated