Who is John Bercow and why has he joined the Labour party?
CONTROVERSIAL former Speaker of the House John Bercow has announced he's defecting to Labour.
The ex politician has launched an extraordinary attack on Boris Johnson's party – but once described himself as a "rabid right-winger".
Who is John Bercow?
John Bercow, 56, grew up in Finchley, North London, where his local MP was Margaret Thatcher.
He was a youth tennis champion once ranked number one in Britain, but his asthma and short stature stopped him pursuing a professional career.
As a student activist in the far-right Monday Club, Mr Bercow was in favour of a programme of "assisted repatriation" of immigrants.
He has since distanced himself from the organisation and dismissed his views at the time as "bone headed".
Mr Bercow worked in banking and lobbying and ran a speaking and campaigning course that trained future Tory MPs.
He was elected as a Conservative councillor in the London Borough of Lambeth in 1986.
Eleven years later he secured the safe Tory seat of Buckingham, which he represented until 2019.
He quit Iain Duncan Smith's shadow cabinet after defying a three-line whip over allowing gay couples to adopt children.
As a Tory backbencher he openly praised Labour PM Tony Blair while criticising his own leader.
He later rejoined the front bench – but was sacked by Michael Howard after clashes over tax, immigration and Iraq.
Mr Bercow has said his political views moved to the centre in the early 2000s and he has championed causes such as gay rights.
He stepped down as Speaker in 2019 after a decade, the latter part of which was overshadowed by claims of bullying.
Ex Commons official David Leakey alleged Mr Bercow would fly into rages, thump the table and call staff names when his "red mist" descended.
But the politician himself called the claims "total and utter rubbish".
And he resigned from politics altogether in 2019 after vowing to do so if a general election went ahead – which it did.
He currently lives with his wife Sally.
Why has John Bercow joined the Labour party?
The ex Conservative MP said he switched his political allegiances several weeks ago – because he believes Sir Keir Starmer's party is the only way to get rid of the Government.
And he called the Conservative Party "reactionary, populist, nationalistic and sometimes even xenophobic" in an extraordinary attack.
“I am motivated by support for equality, social justice and internationalism. That is the Labour brand,” the ardent Remainer told the Observer.
“The conclusion I have reached is that this Government needs to be replaced.
"The reality is that the Labour party is the only vehicle that can achieve that objective. There is no other credible option.”
Mr Bercow described Boris Johnson as "a successful campaigner but a lousy governor".
“I don’t think he has any vision of a more equitable society, any thirst for social mobility, or any passion to better the lot of people less fortunate than he is," he said.
When did Mr Bercow step down as Speaker?
On September 9 2019, Mr Bercow told the chamber he would step down on the promised Brexit deadline of October 31 that year.
He also quit as Speaker on that date.
At that time, Mr Bercow told the chamber: “At the 2017 election I promised my wife and children that it would be my last.
“This is a pledge I intend to keep if the house votes tonight for an early general election my tenure as Speaker and MP will end when this Parliament ends.
“If the house does not so vote I have concluded that the least disruptive and most democratic course of action would be for me to stand down at the close of business on Thursday, October 31.”
And he said said that throughout his time as Speaker he has “sought to be the backbenchers’ backstop” – and the role had been the “greatest privilege and honour of my professional life”.
But his term as Speaker divided opinions – particularly between Brexiteers and Remainers.
As the Brexit debate raged and senior opposition figures played every trick in the parliamentary book to prevent the governments of Theresa May and Boris Johnson from pursuing their preferred policies, Mr Bercow drew the ire of hardline Eurosceptics for perceived bias.
After he allowed an amendment by Tory rebel Dominic Grieve to be voted on, he was labelled "Speaker the Devil" by this newspaper, while another called him an "egotistical preening popinjay (who) has shamelessly put his anti-Brexit bias before the national interest – and is a disgrace to his office".
He also faced scrutiny for his expenses.
In November 2015, it was revealed he had spent almost £20,000 of taxpayers' money to fly to a conference in Japan with an aide.
In February 2016, it was revealed that he spent thousands of pounds wining and dining fellow MPs, plus almost £2,000 on a dinner with his Australian counterpart and hundreds of pounds to tune the grand piano in his apartments.
His office argued that the overall expenditure of the Speaker's Office had fallen during his tenure, from £626,029 in 2009/10 to £504,737 in 2015/16.
Is John Bercow still an MP?
Mr Bercow served as the Member of Parliament for Buckingham between 1997 and 2019, winning the seat six times, before finally stepping down.
Since he resigned, the constituency has been represented by Tory Greg Smith.
Who is his wife Sally Bercow?
Bercow married Sally Illman in 2002 and they have three children.
Former Tory activist Sally, now 49, appeared on Celebrity Big Brother and stood as a Labour council candidate.
In May 2015 it emerged Sally had a year-long affair with Bercow's cousin Alan.
They patched up their marriage and remain together.
In 2017, we reported the couple's love life could suffer from the silencing of Big Ben as Sally finds the bongs a turn-on in their apartment beside the clock tower.
The couple lived next to the clock tower in the Houses of Parliament.
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