Bercow: If I'm biased it's a bias in favour of parliament

PUBLISHED: 07:46 28 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:25 28 March 2019

Speaker John Bercow in the House of Commons. Photograph: House of Commons/PA Wire

Speaker John Bercow in the House of Commons. Photograph: House of Commons/PA Wire

Commons speaker John Bercow has denied being biased in parliament and says he believes it is important "to give a voice to minorities".

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In a wide-ranging interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the often controversial figure in British politics addressed claims of impartiality.

Insisting he is “simply fair”, Bercow said he had “consistently” shown his desire to hear all views on an issue, including during the Brexit process.

“There was a time when Europhiles, pro-Europeans, used to criticise me years ago for selecting urgent questions from Brexit supporters when they were in a minority,” he said.

“And now the Brexit supporters criticise me for choosing questions or amendments from Remainers. So, in other words, at different times, I’ve upset both sides.

“And, like most speakers, I think it’s important to give a voice to minorities in the House, not just to the Government view or the majority view, but to the minority of the dissident view.”

Declaring that he is “impartial in parliament but ... not impartial about parliament”, he added: “If I’m biased, I’m biased in favour of parliament. Parliament being heard. Parliament having a right to speak. Parliament having time. Parliament being respected by the government of the day and indeed by the opposition.”

Earlier this month, Bercow’s ruling over another vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal earned him the title of the Brexit Destroyer in some parts of the press, along with a suggestion that he had potentially triggered a constitutional crisis.

He issued a fresh warning on Wednesday that substantial changes were required to allow a third meaningful vote, insisting the Government must “meet the test of change”.

Responding to his statement, a government source said the Speaker was “making it up as he goes along”.

Bercow told La Repubblica he was optimistic for the future of Britain, despite the current deadlock, and said British people showed resilience in times of crisis.

Elected as the 157th Speaker of the House of Commons in June 2009, Bercow has become known for his caustic parliamentary put-downs.

He sparked uproar in the Commons earlier this week by aiming an “insult” at a Conservative MP.

The speaker remarked that former minister Greg Hands “wasn’t a very good whip” as he admonished the MP for Chelsea and Fulham for “disorderly” behaviour.

Bercow said that his actions in the Commons were not a performance.

“What you see is what you get,” he added.

“I think that it is better to try to handle things with a degree of humour, if possible, rather than everything being deadly serious.”

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