Last month John Bercow announced he was going to retire on October 31, the Brexit deadline, in order to steer the Commons through the final stages of Brexit. But with MPs thwarting the Government’s attempts to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in time for an October 31 departure, the Speaker could decide to back out of his promise to retire. There has been some speculation that Mr Bercow could renege on his promise to step down at the end of the month to see Brexit through and he even hinted as such during his resignation speech.
Patrick Wintour, the Guardian’s diplomatic editor asked on Twitter: “Is Bercow standing down as Speaker do or die on 31st October?
“Could there be a technical extension on the basis this is ‘no time for a novice’?”
Charles Moore, former editor of The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator and The Sunday Telegraph, also suggested it was still in Mr Bercow’s power to evade his promise to retire.
He said he was unsure if the speculation was correct, but said it wouldn’t be unusual for the Speaker to do so.
Mr Moore said: “Mr Bercow long ago decided that the Speaker can break any convention according to whim and describe his whim as an assertion of the rights of Parliament.”
Mr Bercow hinted that he could stay on beyond October 31, if his experience is required.
He said the retirement date had been chosen to ensure “an experienced figure” was in the chair for the “short period” leading to his departure.
Brexit Party MEP Rupert Lowe has hit out at the suggestion that the Speaker could go back on his promise to resign.
“Bercow has dragged the position through the mud in pursuit of his own political goals and history will not remember him kindly.”
Lord Lisvane, a former senior clerk, agrees with Mr Lowe’s remarks that the Speaker’s powers should be curbed.
He told the public administration and constitional affairs committee that restoring trust in Parliament should be “front and centre” for the new Speaker.
Lord Livane, who was clerk of the House from 2011-2014, suggested the Speaker’s staff should be appointed through a civil service-type recruitment process rather than chosen by the chairman himself.
Political commentator Robert Colvile said he would not be surprised if the Speaker doesn’t step down next week.
He told Express.co.uk: “Given that he’s already broken one promise about when he would step down, it’s hardly surprising that he would break a second.
“I think he will attempt to stay for as long as Brexit is a live issue, no matter how partisan and polarising a figure he has self-evidently become.”
Mr Bercow has repeatedly come under fire for siding with Remain MPs and allowing backbenchers to take control of the parliamentary agenda.
He facilitated the passage of the Benn Act, the law that forced Mr Johnson to seek an extension from the EU, after allowing a motion to debate the Bill in the Commons.
This week he was criticised for blocking the Government from holding a yes or no vote on its Brexit deal, making it much harder for Boris Johnson to honour his pledge to leave the EU on October 31.