U.K. Parliament Speaker Faces Confidence Motion Over Trump Ban

  • Tory lawmaker says Bercow ‘overstepped the mark’ on president
  • Successful attempts to oust speakers have been very rare

John Bercow, the Speaker of the U.K. House of Commons, faces a no confidence motion over his announcement that he would refuse to invite Donald Trump to address Parliament during the U.S. president’s visit to the U.K. this year.

James Duddridge, a Conservative member of Parliament and a former Foreign Office minister, tabled the one-line motion on Thursday, after Parliament had risen for a week-long recess. He said Bercow’s announcement on Monday that he would veto any attempt to invite Trump to address Parliament was the final straw.

John Bercow

John Bercow

Photographer: Dan Kitwood/PA Wire/PA Images

“He has overstepped the mark,” Duddridge told Sky News. “He has overstepped the mark a number of times. But this most recent incident -- where he used the speaker’s chair to pronounce his views on an international situation in some quite detailed and lengthy manner -- is wholly inappropriate.”

The speaker of the Commons must be politically impartial, and once elected to the role is required to resign from their political party. To attempt to oust the speaker is highly unusual. There has only been one successful effort in more than 300 years -- that was Bercow’s immediate predecessor, Michael Martin, in 2009. But Martin was deeply tarnished by the expenses scandal that had ripped through Parliament that year, and his removal was supported by lawmakers on all sides. In the event, Martin resigned before a motion of no confidence in him was debated.

Tory Discontent

Most of the discontent with Bercow comes from Conservatives -- the party he left when he took the role. He has been a reforming speaker, encouraging members to use Parliamentary devices to hold the government to account. Ministers are far more likely to be summoned to the chamber to answer questions on topical matters or policy announcements than they were under Martin. This has led to rows with Tories. The last Prime Minister, David Cameron, disliked the amount of time Bercow required him to spend answering questions. Once, addressing a journalists’ lunch, he jokingly compared the diminutive speaker to one of Snow White’s seven dwarves.

The House of Commons returns on Feb. 20. Duddridge told Sky he expected to gain support for his motion during the recess. “It will be known his position is untenable, perhaps even to the point that he doesn’t return on the Monday,” he said.

But Labour lawmaker Toby Perkins attacked the motion. “These Tories must have EVERYTHING their own way,” he wrote on Twitter. “No speaker, press, parliament or court can get it in the way. Autocracy.”

Bercow’s office offered a one-line comment. “The speaker has made his position clear in response to points of order earlier this week, stands by that position, and has nothing further to add,” it said.

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