UK Politics

John Bercow to continue as Commons Speaker with MPs' backing

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Media captionThe moment of British political drama as John Bercow is dragged to take up his chair as Speaker

John Bercow has been re-elected unopposed as Speaker of the House of Commons as MPs returned to Parliament for the first time after the election.

The choice of the next Speaker was the first act of the new Parliament before newly elected MPs are sworn in.

Mr Bercow told MPs that he would be the "champion of backbenchers" and ensure the Commons remained at "the heart of our democratic system".

Mr Bercow has divided opinion among MPs since first being elected in 2009.

Efforts by the Conservatives on the final day of the last Parliament to change the procedures for the Speaker's re-election - which would have made it easier to oust him - were defeated after rebel Tories joined forces with Labour and others to block them.

Mr Bercow was re-elected without a vote on Monday, as was the case after the 2010 election. If a single MP had objected to him continuing in the role, a vote of all MPs would have been held.

'Giant'

Mr Bercow said he had been honoured to serve as Speaker for the past six years and would be honoured to continue in that role for a "little longer".

Image caption Mr Bercow joked that he wanted the words "backbenchers' champion" to be carved on his tombstone
Image caption The Conservatives have had their run-ins with Mr Bercow but did not contest his re-election
Image caption For Labour, Harriet Harman said Mr Bercow would ensure MPs' "voices were heard"
Image caption The Speaker's re-election was overseen by the new Father of the House, Sir Gerald Kaufman
Image caption Meanwhile, peers have also re-assembled in the House of Lords

He said he would discharge his responsibilities "effectively, efficiently and fairly", holding the government "properly to account".

Prime Minister David Cameron, who has clashed with the Speaker in the past, congratulated Mr Bercow and acknowledged the "inclusive way in which he had upheld this office - always putting backbenchers first".

Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman paid a fulsome tribute to Mr Bercow, saying he was a "giant in the office" and, in her opinion, the best holder of the position she had known in more than 30 years in the House.

'Champion'

His re-appointment was also welcomed by Angus Robertson, the leader of the SNP's 56 MPs in Parliament as well as by Nigel Dodds, leader of the Democratic Unionists in the Commons and Dr Alasdair McDonnell, leader of the SDLP in Parliament.

Former Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael welcomed Mr Bercow's re-appointment on behalf of the Lib Dems, joking that he was speaking on behalf of the "elite cadre" of his party's representatives left in Parliament after they were reduced from 57 to eight MPs.

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who nominated Mr Bercow, said it was vital for "constitutional reasons" that Speakers were not removed against the will of the Commons.

"The Speaker is the champion of the House of Commons against all comers," he said. "The champion of the Commons against the Lords, sometimes against the judges, but perhaps most particularly against the executive."

Many MPs have praised Mr Bercow's reforms to Commons procedure, insisting they breathed new life into Parliament and gave the opposition and backbenchers more opportunity to question ministers on urgent matters.

But some Conservatives regard Mr Bercow - who used to be a Conservative MP but as Speaker is independent and non-partisan - as a polarising figure and suggest that he unduly favoured Labour and the Lib Dems in the last Parliament.

Mr Bercow, who is responsible for maintaining discipline in the Commons, was first elected in the wake of the scandal over MPs' expenses, which led to the resignation of his predecessor Michael Martin.

Mr Cameron and Ms Harman also paid tribute to Sir Gerald Kaufman, the Labour MP who has become the Father of the House - an honorific status denoting the longest-serving MP in the Commons.

MPs will be sworn in over the next three days prior to the State Opening of Parliament on 27 May, when the Queen's Speech - the government's legislative programme for the year ahead - will be announced.

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