House of Commons Speaker John Bercow faced increased pressure to quit from pro-Brexit members of Prime Ministerâ€™s Theresa Mayâ€™s Conservative Party after disclosing that he voted last year for the UK to remain in the European Union.
Bercow, whose position as the independent chairman of Parliamentâ€™s lower chamber means he is supposed to remain impartial, was already sharply criticized over an announcement last week that heâ€™ll veto any plan for US President Donald Trump to speak in Parliament when he makes a state visit to the UK this year.
â€œThe score sheet is mounting up and thereâ€™s a lot of criticism on a wide variety of things now,â€ former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said on ITVâ€™s â€œPeston on Sundayâ€ program. â€œI was very unhappy about his comments concerning Donald Trump. I thought that they were damaging and actually it was a bit of grandstanding by John.â€
Tory lawmaker James Duddridge submitted a motion of no confidence in the speaker after Bercowâ€™s Trump comments. A vote canâ€™t be held until Parliament reconvenes on Feb. 20 following a recess.
Bercowâ€™s remarks on Brexit, recorded on video in an appearance before students at Reading University earlier this month, were reported by the Sunday Telegraph newspaper. â€œThis may not be popular with some people in this audience,â€ the speaker said. â€œPersonally I voted to â€˜Remain.â€™ I thought it was better to stay in the European Union than not.â€
At the start of last week, Bercow made a surprise announcement in the Commons that after Trumpâ€™s order banning people in some majority-Muslim countries from traveling to the U.S. he was â€œeven more strongly opposedâ€ to the president making a speech in Parliament, an honor accorded to some heads of state visiting the U.K. The announcement drew applause from opposition lawmakers. No date has yet been set for Trumpâ€™s trip to Britain.
Bercow, who left the Conservatives when he became speaker, has frequently irritated his former party colleagues. Ministers are far more likely to be summoned to the chamber to answer questions on topical matters or policy announcements than they were under immediate predecessor, Michael Martin.
An attempt to oust the speaker is highly unusual. There has only been one successful effort in more than 300 yearsâ€”the unseating of Martin in 2009.
But Martin was deeply tarnished by an expenses scandal that ripped through Parliament that year, and his removal was supported by lawmakers on all sides. In the event, he resigned before a motion of no confidence in him was debated.