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‘Order! Order!’: Parliament Speaker Is Brexit’s Surprise Star and Villain

In 2009, he became speaker of the House of Commons — the first Jewish lawmaker ever to hold that post. He resigned from the party, as is customary, when he became speaker. His politics had migrated to the left; he was married to a Labour activist, Sally, and many of his own party members spoke of him with open loathing.

David Cameron, then the prime minister, once mocked Mr. Bercow in front of a crowd of journalists, joking that, at the upcoming royal wedding, the speaker would intervene by yelling, “Order! I want to hear what the prince is saying.”

He lampooned Mr. Bercow’s height by likening him to one of the seven dwarves, recounting an exchange in which the speaker declared, “I’m not happy!” and a junior health minister replied, “Well, which one are you?”

Insults became a central mode of communication between the speaker and the Tories.

The health minister called Mr. Bercow a “stupid, sanctimonious dwarf.” Another government minister, Andrea Leadsom, asked to nominate candidates for the “best villain” of the political year, described “an incredibly annoying little creature that squeaks a lot and has found a place in the corridor outside my office.” She then hastened to add that she was referring to a mouse, not Mr. Bercow.

Mr. Bercow, meanwhile, sneered at Mr. Cameron for his privileged background, remarking that “Eton, hunting, shooting and lunch at White’s,” an exclusive St. James’s gentleman’s club, did not qualify him to lead.

Mr. Bercow is said to have a temper and has been accused of bullying his staff, something he denies. An independent inquiry last fall suggested that he should step down. He has signaled that he will leave his post this year.

The events of the last week have won him praise from unusual quarters. The Times of London, calling him “hardly a sympathetic individual,” wrote approvingly of his actions, saying the government’s treatment of Parliament “has appeared drawn from the 17th century, frequently invoking the will of the people, much as the early Stuarts used to assert the divine right of kings.”

As for Mr. Bercow, he does not pay much attention to his critics, he told The House Magazine in 2012.

“They scribble away and the world goes on,” he said. “I have no plans to die tomorrow but if I die tomorrow I will die a very happy man.”


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