Top Tory says John Bercow 'diminishing' himself by branding party xenophobic

A Tory minister accused former Commons speaker John Bercow of having diminished his influence by coming out in support of Labour, and branding his former party “xenophobic”.

Announcing his defection, Mr Bercow said the Tories under Boris Johnson as “reactionary, populist, nationalistic and sometimes even xenophobic”.

Today, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told Sky News: “He’s a private citizen, he’s entitled to make decisions about his politics and I respect that.

“I think as a former speaker he’s somebody that even though he’s left office does carry a degree of authority like his predecessors and I think his predecessors’ authority was enhanced by their refusal to go back into party politics.

“But I think him joining a political party actually has the effect of diminishing the force of his voice in politics, however strong he wants it to be.”

Mr Buckland said he disagrees “totally” with the former Tory MP’s characterisation of the party today being “xenophobic”.

Mr Bercow said there has been “no discussion whatsoever” regarding a peerage.

He told Sky’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday: “I’ve had absolutely no discussion whatsoever, either with Keir Starmer or any other member of the Labour leadership about that matter.

“There has been no barter, no trade, no deal whatsoever.

“And if I may very politely say so, and I do, the people who make what they think is that potent and coruscating criticism of me are operating according to their own rather low standards. Let’s deal with the issue rather than impugn people’s motives. It’s got nothing to do with that whatsoever.”

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Asked what he would do if the Labour leader rang him and offered him a peerage, Mr Bercow said: “I think there’s a lot to be said, Trevor, for the old Willie Whitelaw adage – personally I think it is best to cross bridges only when one comes to them.

“It isn’t in my mind, it’s not part of the game plan, I haven’t discussed it, I’m not waiting for it. What I’m motivated by is a commitment to equality, social justice and internationalism.”

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland

Mr Bercow said his switch to the Labour Party is “not personal against Boris Johnson” and that it was “something that changed in me”.

He told Sky’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme: “It’s not personal against Boris Johnson. I do think that he is someone who has only a nodding acquaintance with the truth in a leap year, and I think that the utter contempt with which he has treated Parliament is lamentable, and I think it has exacerbated the very strong feelings of resentment towards him, because I think a lot of people feel that’s not the way to behave.

“Telling the truth in and to Parliament matters, circumventing Parliament is wrong, treating Parliament with disdain is objectionable, but no, I have over a long period evolved my political thinking.

“I wasn’t a member of a party throughout my tenure as speaker, because it would have been quite wrong to be.

“I didn’t take a view. I sought to facilitate the House of Commons to express its view and all individual members to put their points across because that’s the responsibility of the speaker.

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“Now I’m a private citizen, as Robert Buckland says, I’m entitled to take a political view. And my view is a left of centre view. I identify with Labour values, Labour principles, Labour policies.”



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