Did Bercow send a not-so-hidden signal to Gove after announcing his retirement?

PUBLISHED: 17:25 09 September 2019

Was Bercow's middle finger a deliberate signal to Michael Gove? Picture: Parliament TV

Was Bercow's middle finger a deliberate signal to Michael Gove? Picture: Parliament TV

Parliament TV

John Bercow may be forgiven for leaving the impression he is not a fan of Michael Gove as he listened to the minister respond to his resignation announcement.

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Michael Gove responds to John Bercow's announcement that the speaker is planning to retire. Picture: Parliament TVMichael Gove responds to John Bercow's announcement that the speaker is planning to retire. Picture: Parliament TV

Footage of the speaker in the House of Commons shows him leaning back to listen to the minister with a smile on his face - and his middle finger on his chin.

Bercow had sent shockwaves through Westminster as he told the Commons that he intends to stand down, in an emotional but defiant speech.

WATCH: House of Commons speaker John Bercow holds back tears as he announces his departure

He had already made a heavy dig at Boris Johnson's government for culling 21 Tory MPs who defied the whip on anti-no deal Brexit legislation.

He also said he would make "no apologies, to anyone, anywhere, at any time" for his work to empower the House of Commons.

But as Gove stood to pay tribute to the speaker, perhaps Bercow's body language spoke in even stronger terms.

Bercow has received a rough time from the government and Brexiteers, particularly in recent weeks.

Last week some Conservatives indicated that they intended to break with longstanding convention by standing as candidates in Bercow's own Buckingham constituency.

This followed months of accusations of Remain bias from fellow Conservatives and some Labour figures as the Brexit debates unfold, including Andrea Leadsom and Crispin Blunt.

More recently, Michael Gove had suggested that allowing opposition MPs to take over the Commons order paper - and introduce anti-no deal legislation - had been "subverting parliament's proper role".

Bercow shot back at this charge, saying: "I have sought to exercise my judgement [...]

"I will do it to the best of my ability without fear or favour - to coin a phrase, come what may, do or die."

However, Gove has defended Bercow against accusations of bias in the past, and Bercow in turn has described the senior minister as "extremely capable" in interviews.

But as Bercow prepares to remove himself from the cut and thrust of parliament within weeks, we are unlikely to find out what his gesture really meant - if anything.

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