Why the resignation speech by Speaker Bercow matters

On 9 and 12 September John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, gave two extremely important speeches in terms of promotion and defence of the rule of law and parliamentary democracy. Anybody attaching great value to those issues will hardly remain deaf to the words spoken by Mr. Speaker.

The first speech is the one in which he announced his intention to stand down as Speaker. Hesaid amongst other things:

“…as Speaker I have sought to increase the relative authority of this legislature, for which I will make absolutely no apology to anyone, anywhere, at any time. To deploy a perhaps dangerous phrase, I have also sought to be the Back Benchers’ backstop.”

“I could also not have served without the repeated support of this House and its Members, past and present. 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 10 years as Speaker. This has been—let me put it explicitly—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 hon. and right hon. Members individually, and for Parliament institutionally, as the Speaker of the House of Commons. Thank you.”

The second speech is a lecture organized by the Bingham Centre on 12 Setpember in which he went about the same issues with regard to Brexit, an issue that has produced the unexpected result of highlighting the oversight that Parliament is supposed to exert upon the executive branch. Mr Speaker has been introduced to the audience with these words:

“We can’t leave the defense of the rule of law to the courts alone and that is why the Bingham Centre has put at the very centre of its work the role of parliament in upholding the rule of law, and it’s why we are absolutely delighted this evening to welcome as this year’s lecturer the Speaker who in my view has done more for the rule of law, probably than any other Speaker since Speaker Lenthall. By championing the House of Commons against the executive, insisting on its supremacy over the executive, which in our parliamentary democracy under the rule of law remains accountable to Parliament.”

Matteo Angioli

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Add Comment