LONDON (AP) – Former UK House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, who gained international fame by arbitrating the country’s political drama over Brexit, said on Sunday that he resigned from the Conservatives in government to join the opposition Labor Party.
Bercow was a conservative lawmaker for 12 years until he was elected in 2009 to the neutral role of president, responsible for managing the affairs of the House of Commons and interpreting the rules of procedure of Parliament.
He enraged the conservative governments of Prime Minister Theresa May and her successor, Boris Johnson, by giving lawmakers a chance to block proposed legislation on the UK’s exit from the European Union.
He became a hero to Brexit opponents and a villain to his supporters, and was recognized around the world for his strong ties and shouts of “Order!”
Bercow was also accused during his career of intimidating members of his staff, he claims he denied. He resigned in 2019.
Bercow is a strong critic of Johnson, a Brexit champion whose rise has coincided with an exodus of pro-EU politicians from the Conservative Party. Bercow told The Observer newspaper that conservatives under Johnson had become “reactionary, populist, nationalist, and sometimes even xenophobic.”
“The conclusion I have come to is that this government needs to be replaced,” he said. “The reality is that the Labor Party is the only vehicle that can achieve that goal.”
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland rejected the characterization of the party as xenophobic, saying that Bercow’s decision to renounce political neutrality “actually has the effect of diminishing the strength of his voice in politics.”