Andrew Neil confronts John Bercow on reign as Speaker – ‘Don’t think you were impartial!’

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BBC presenter Andrew Neil has mocked controversial former Commons Speaker John Bercow after he described Brexit as the biggest mistake Britain has made since World War 2.

Mr Bercow, who enraged Tory Brexiteers with some of the decisions he made during his term of office, surprised few when he revealed himself to be a Remainer in a valedictory speech to the Foreign Press Association just days after standing down. He said: “I’m no longer the Speaker. I don’t have to remain impartial now.”

But quick as a flash BBC political presenter Mr Neil hit back and tweeted: “Many folks don’t think you were impartial when you were the Speaker.”

Mr Bercow became known for championing the rights of backbenchers during his 10 years in the Speaker’s chair and made urgent questions a prominent part of the Parliamentary day.

But in recent months he was regularly accused of bending the rules to allow rebel backbench MPs such as Dominic Grieve and Hilary Benn to thwart Brexit by limiting the Government’s room for manoeuvre.

This included allowing MPs to debate and pass the so-called Benn Act which forced Boris Johnson to request a third delay to Brexit by law.

Tory Brexiteer Sir Bernard Jenkin, who is also Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee chairman, openly questioned Mr Bercow’s impartiality after he refused to allow a meaningful vote on Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal on the basis it would be “repetitive and disorderly” to do so.

Sir Bernard told him it was “becoming remarkable” how often Mr Bercow pleased “one lot and not the other lot”.

Mr Bercow has, however, rejected claims he blocked Brexit with his interpretations of Commons procedure and insists it was Parliament not him that prevented Britain from leaving the EU by now.

He told Foreign Press Association members: “I respect the Prime Minister and he has the right to do what he did also in the House of Commons.

“But my job was to stand up for the rights of the House of Commons. No apology for championing the rights of Parliament.”

He rejected recent comments by the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, who described Westminster as a “zombie parliament”.

He said: “He has the material disadvantage of being totally wrong. Parliament is no disgrace at all and did its job well.”

Mr Bercow said he was now free to speak his mind on Brexit.

He said: “I don’t think it helps the UK. Brexit is the biggest mistake of this country after the war.

“I respect Boris Johnson but Brexit doesn’t help us. It’s better to be part of the EU power bloc.”

The former Speaker is also stepping down as an MP after representing the constituency of Buckingham for the Conservatives since 1997.

He plans to publish a book about his life next year and is expected to join the lucrative after-dinner speaking circuit.

He has been replaced as Speaker by the Labour MP Lindsay Hoyle, from Chorley in Lancashire.

Many folks don’t think you were impartial when you were the speaker

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