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John Bercow
Apvienotās Karalistes parlamenta Pārstāvju palātas priekšsēdētāja oficiālā vizīte Latvijā (39361465685) (cropped).jpg
Bercow in 2018
Speaker of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom
In office
22 June 2009 – 4 November 2019
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
David Cameron
Theresa May
Boris Johnson
Preceded by Michael Martin
Succeeded by Lindsay Hoyle
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
In office
10 November 2003 – 8 September 2004
Leader Michael Howard
Preceded by Caroline Spelman
Succeeded by Alan Duncan
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
18 September 2001 – 23 July 2002
Leader Iain Duncan Smith
Preceded by Oliver Letwin
Succeeded by Howard Flight
Member of Parliament
for Buckingham
In office
1 May 1997 – 4 November 2019
Preceded by George Walden
Succeeded by Greg Smith
Chancellor of the University of Essex
In office
22 July 2017 – November 2021
Vice Chancellor Anthony Forster
Preceded by Shami Chakrabarti
Chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire
In office
25 July 2014 – July 2017
Vice Chancellor Bill Rammell
Rebecca Bunting
Preceded by The Baroness Howells of St Davids
Member of Lambeth London Borough Council for St Leonard's ward
In office
9 May 1986 – 4 May 1990
Personal details
John Simon Bercow

(1963-01-19) 19 January 1963 (age 60)
Edgware, Middlesex, England
Political party Labour (2021–2022)(Suspended)
Other political
Sally Illman
(m. 2002)
Children 3
Alma mater University of Essex (BA)

John Simon Bercow (/ˈbɜːrk/; born 19 January 1963) is a British former politician who was Speaker of the House of Commons from 2009 to 2019, and Member of Parliament (MP) for Buckingham between 1997 and 2019. A member of the Conservative Party prior to becoming Speaker, he was the first MP since Selwyn Lloyd in 1971 to be elected Speaker without having been a Deputy Speaker. After resigning as Speaker in 2019 and opting not to seek re-election as MP for Buckingham in the 2019 general election, Bercow left Parliament. In 2021, he joined the Labour Party but was suspended in 2022.

Early life and education

Bercow was born in Edgware, Middlesex, the son of Brenda (Bailey) and Charles Bercow, a taxi driver. His father was born to a Jewish family and his mother converted to Judaism. His paternal grandparents were Jews who arrived in Britain from Romania in the early 20th century. Having settled in the UK, the family anglicised its surname from Berkowitz to Bercow. Bercow attended Frith Manor Primary School in Woodside Park, and Finchley Manorhill, a large comprehensive school in North Finchley. In his youth, Bercow had been a successful junior tennis player, but was too short to go professional. In 1975 he appeared on the UK children's television series Crackerjack!.

Bercow graduated with a first-class honours degree in Government from the University of Essex in 1985. Anthony King, a professor at the university, has said about Bercow that "When he was a student here, he was very right-wing, pretty stroppy, and very good. He was an outstanding student." As a young activist, Bercow was a member of the right-wing Conservative Monday Club. He stood as a candidate for the club's national executive in 1981 with a manifesto calling for a programme of "assisted repatriation" of immigrants, and became secretary of its immigration and repatriation committee. However, at the age of 20 he left the club, citing the views of many of the club's members as his reason, and has since then called his participation in the club "utter madness" and dismissed his views from that period as "bone headed".

After graduating from the University of Essex, Bercow was elected as the last national chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students (FCS), 1986–87. The FCS was then broken up by the chairman of the Conservative Party, Norman Tebbit, after one of its members had accused previous Tory PM Harold Macmillan of war crimes in extraditing Cossacks to the Soviet Union. Bercow attracted the attention of the Conservative leadership, and in 1987 he was appointed by Tebbit as vice-chairman of the Conservative Collegiate Forum (the successor organisation of the FCS) to head the campaign for student support in the run-up to the 1987 general election.

After a spell in merchant banking, Bercow joined the lobbying firm Rowland Sallingbury Casey (part of Saatchi & Saatchi) in 1988, becoming a board director within five years. With fellow Conservative Julian Lewis, Bercow ran an advanced speaking and campaigning course for over 10 years, which trained over 600 Conservatives (including several current MPs) in campaigning and communication techniques. He has also lectured in the United States to students of the Leadership Institute.

Political career


In 1986, Bercow was elected as a Conservative councillor in the London Borough of Lambeth, and served for four years representing the Streatham, St Leonard's ward. In 1987, he was appointed the youngest deputy group leader in the United Kingdom.

Special adviser

In 1995, Bercow was appointed as a special adviser to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Jonathan Aitken. After Aitken's resignation to fight a libel action, Bercow served as a special adviser to the Secretary of State for National Heritage, Virginia Bottomley.

Parliamentary career

John Bercow Senate of Poland 02
Bercow in Poland in 2010

Bercow was first elected to parliament in the 1997 general election as the MP for Buckingham with a majority of 12,386. He then increased his majority at the 2001 general election being elected by a margin of 13,325 votes. He was re-elected at the 2005 general election with an again increased majority of 18,129.

Bercow devoted a notable portion of his maiden speech to praising former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher whom he called "the world's greatest living statesman."

Bercow rose quickly through the opposition's junior offices. He was appointed a frontbench spokesman for Education and Employment in June 1999, and then a frontbench spokesman for Home Affairs in July 2000, before being brought into the shadow cabinet in 2001 by the Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith. He served as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury from September 2001 to July 2002, and as Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions from July to November 2002. During this first spell on the front benches, Bercow publicly said that he did not think he was ruthless enough to reach the top of politics. In November 2002, when the Labour government introduced the Adoption and Children Act, which would allow unmarried gay and heterosexual couples to adopt children, Duncan Smith imposed a three-line whip requiring Conservative MPs to vote against the bill, rather than allowing a free vote. Arguing that it should be a free vote, Bercow defied the whips and voted with Labour, then resigned from the front bench. As a backbencher he was openly critical of Duncan Smith's leadership.

In November 2003, the new Conservative leader Michael Howard appointed Bercow as Shadow Secretary of State for International Development. However, he went on to clash with Howard over taxes, immigration and Iraq, and was sacked from the front bench in September 2004. Bercow has a long-standing interest in Burma and frequently raised issues of democracy and genocide in the country. In 2006, he was a patron of the Tory Reform Group. In 2001, he supported the ban on MPs becoming members of the Monday Club.

Bercow was formerly the treasurer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tribal Peoples, an APPG composed of over 30 cross-party MPs which aims to raise parliamentary and public awareness of tribal peoples.

Bercow won the Stonewall award for Politician of the Year in 2010 for his work to support equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Stonewall gave him a score of 100% for always voting for its position on gay equality issues in parliament between 2007 and 2009.

Opposition MP of the Year

In 2005, Bercow won the Channel Four/Hansard Society Political Award for 'Opposition MP of the Year'. He said:

In addition to pursuing a wide variety of local issues, I have attempted to question, probe and scrutinise the Government in the House of Commons on important national and international topics which concern people. Over the last 12 months, I have constantly pressed the case for reform of world trade rules to give the poorest people on the planet a chance to sell their products and improve their quality of life. The plight of the people of Darfur, Western Sudan, has also been a regular theme. They have suffered too much for too long with too little done about the situation. I shall go on arguing for Britain to take the lead in the international community in seeking decisive action for peace and justice.

Bercow review

In 2008, Bercow was asked by Labour cabinet members Ed Balls and Alan Johnson to produce a substantial review of children and families affected by speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). After the report, the government pledged £52 million to raise the profile of SLCN within the education field.

The review looks at the extreme consequences to which communication problems can lead; from initial frustration at not being able to express oneself, to bullying or being bullied at school, fewer job prospects and even a descent into criminality.

The interim report highlighted a number of core issues: that speech, language and communication are not only essential life skills but fundamental human rights; that early identification of problems and intervention is important to avoid social problems later on; and that the current system of treatment was patchy, i.e. there was a need for services to be continually provided for children and families from an early age.

Charitable work

Bercow has supported a number of charities. He has been a Patron of the ME Association, Brain Tumour Research and a Patron of the Patchwork Foundation founded by Harris Bokhari. He also spoken at a fundraising event for the mental health charity Jami. In 2018, Bercow supported a fundraiser for Children in Need.

Speaker of the House of Commons

Election and first term

John Bercow Speaker's Chair
Bercow presides over the House, 2012.

Bercow had long campaigned quietly to become Speaker and was touted as a successor to Michael Martin. On 20 May 2009, he officially declared to stand in the Speakership election, which had been triggered by Martin's resignation, and launched his manifesto for the job.

In the first round of the election on 22 June, Bercow received 179 votes – more than any other candidate, but short of the majority required for victory. In the third and final round of voting later that day, he defeated George Young by 322 votes to 271, and was approved by the Queen at 10 pm that night as the 157th Speaker. In accordance with convention, he rescinded his Conservative party membership.

Bercow was elected by a large number of Labour votes, many MPs being driven by the perception that Michael Martin had been hounded out of the job and wanting his replacement to be someone who was not a Conservative Party favourite.

Bercow was the first Speaker to be Jewish, the first one to have been elected by an exhaustive ballot, and the first not to wear traditional court robes while presiding over the House of Commons. However, in accordance with tradition, Bercow did display his coat of arms at Speaker's House.

Speaker's residence refurbishment

Within weeks of taking office as Speaker, Bercow ordered a redecoration and refurbishment of the Speaker's grace and favour apartment in the Palace of Westminster, partly with the objective of making it child-friendly; the work cost £20,659 and was paid for by Parliament. It followed extensive work on the apartment under the previous Speaker.

Youth Parliament

In October 2009, Bercow chaired the United Kingdom Youth Parliament's first annual sitting in the House of Commons, making them the only group except members of parliament to sit in the chamber. He chaired every subsequent sitting and attended every annual conference until his resignation in 2019, addressing and supporting Members of Youth Parliament from across the UK.

2010 general election and second term

The Speaker of the House of Commons is traditionally seen as outside party politics, and is often not challenged by the main parties at general elections, including the 2010 general election. In September 2009, Nigel Farage resigned his leadership of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) to stand for Bercow's Buckingham seat, asserting, "This man represents all that is wrong with British politics today. He was embroiled in the expenses saga and he presides over a Parliament that virtually does nothing." John Stevens, another candidate, found support for his campaign from the former Independent MP Martin Bell. Bercow also faced opposition from the British National Party and the Christian Party.

Speaker's Lectures

To mark the centenary of the Parliament Act 1911, Bercow commissioned a series of lectures about the main political figures of the century. The Speaker's Lectures continue with a variety of topics such as historic parliamentarians and current affairs.

2015 general election and third term

Bercow was returned as an MP in the 2015 general election. The election was notable for the 1,289 spoilt ballot papers, an issue he addressed in his victory speech.

On 26 March 2015, the House of Commons defeated a government motion (introduced by former Conservative party leader and then leader of the House of Commons William Hague) to require there to be a secret ballot vote on whether Bercow remain speaker after the 2015 general election. A number of MPs described it as an underhand plot to oust Bercow, largely based on the timing of the motion just before the dissolution of Parliament, when some Labour MPs expected to oppose it had already returned to their constituencies. In the event, Bercow was re-elected unopposed as Speaker following the general election.

In February 2017, Bercow said he had supported continued membership of the European Union in the 2016 referendum.

2017 general election and fourth term

Following the 2017 general election, Bercow was re-elected unopposed as Speaker of the House by members of parliament on 13 June 2017.


In January 2019, Bercow broke with convention, allowing a vote on an amendment to a government business motion. The amendment, tabled by Dominic Grieve MP, required the Prime Minister (Theresa May) to table a motion within three days on proposed alternative plans if her Brexit deal was rejected by Parliament.

On 18 March 2019, Bercow, in a statement to the House, pre-empted a move by the Government to bring the UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement for a third vote. Citing a convention which dates back to 1604, Bercow stated that he would not allow a vote on a motion which was "substantially the same" as a previously rejected motion.

Retirement as Speaker and career after parliament

Bercow Announces Retirement (D)
MPs applaud Bercow as he sets the date for his retirement.

Having served 10 years as Speaker, Bercow became the longest-serving Speaker since Edward FitzRoy, who served nearly 15 years in post between 1928 and 1943.

On 9 September 2019, amid debates about Brexit and parliament being prorogued, Bercow declared to the House of Commons that he would stand down on 31 October, or at the next general election, whichever was sooner; the former applied.

In November 2019, Bercow was appointed by Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid as Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead; since members of the House of Commons are prohibited from resigning, the legal device of appointment to an "office of profit under The Crown" is used to permit members to leave their legislative offices.

In the same month, Bercow stated that he "think[s] that Brexit is the biggest foreign policy mistake in the post-war period, and that is my honest view."

His autobiography, Unspeakable, was published in 2020.

On 19 June 2021, Bercow said that he had joined the Labour Party "a few weeks ago". He said Boris Johnson's Conservative Party was "reactionary, populist, nationalistic and sometimes even xenophobic." He said his move to Labour was motivated by his "support for equality, social justice and internationalism. That is the Labour brand."

Personal life

Bercow married Sally Illman in 2002 after 13 years of an "on-off" relationship, and they have three children. Their elder son, Oliver, is autistic.

Bercow is a humanist, and before taking the role of Speaker was a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group. When discussing the role of clergy in Parliament, he described himself in a Commons debate as "an irreligious person taking a secular interest in an important subject".

Bercow has been a fan of Arsenal F.C. since January 1971 and is a season ticket holder. He always attends games with his son, and has appeared on AFTV. In 2014 his book Tennis Maestros: The Twenty Greatest Male Tennis Players of All Time was published by Biteback Publishing.

Bercow is a director and shareholder of Fedhead Limited. His wife owns 24 percent of the company.

In January 2022, Bercow was a contestant on the eleventh episode of the revival of the BBC quiz show The Weakest Link where he was voted out in round 2.



Country Date Appointment Post-nominal letters
 United Kingdom 2009–present Member of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council PC


Location Date School Degree
 England 1985 University of Essex First-class honours Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Government
Location Date School Position
 England 2014–present University of Bedfordshire Chancellor
18 July 2017 – present University of Essex Chancellor
27 January 2017 – present University of Manchester Honorary Professor
4 November 2019 – present Birkbeck, University of London Fellowship
24 January 2020 – present Royal Holloway, University of London Professorship of Politics

Honorary degrees
Location Date School Degree
 England 2010 University of Essex Doctor of the University (D.Univ)
16 March 2013 University of Buckingham Doctor of Laws (LL.D)
23 January 2014 De Montfort University Doctorate
30 January 2014 City, University of London Doctor of Science (D.Sc)

Freedom of the City

Location Date Award
 England 4 July 2016 Freedom of the City


See also

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