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Bercow faces fight for job amid backlash over Trump ban





Bercow faces fight for job amid backlash over Trump ban President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May
  • Donald Trump has been invited for state visit to the UK this spring or summer
  • John Bercow said he would deny Trump honour of Westminster Hall speech
  • Commons Speaker railed at 'racism' and backed an 'independent judiciary'
  • Many MPs cheered and applauded his intervention in the chamber last night 
  • But Bercow faces backlash from critics who say he has undermined neutral role 
  • Tory MPs accuse him of 'grandstanding' and are considering no confidence vote 

John Bercow is facing a fight to hang on to his job amid a major backlash over his 'grandstanding' decision to ban Donald Trump from addressing parliament.

Furious Tory MPs are considering forcing a vote of no confidence in the Speaker after an extraordinary intervention in which he branded the US President 'racist and sexist' and said he would not authorise the use of historic Westminster Hall during the impending state visit.

The comments were cheered by many MPs in the chamber, who have been heavily critical of the travel ban imposed by the White House on nationals from seven mainly-Muslim countries.

But there is a mounting backlash from politicians condemning Mr Bercow for abandoning the Speaker's traditional neutrality and wading into international politics.

Tory backbencher Alec Shelbrooke accused Mr Bercow of 'grandstanding' and 'student politics of the worst kind'.

He told MailOnline that the Speaker had effectively validated human rights abuses in other countries such as China - because they had been welcomed to parliament.

British Speaker John Bercow, pictured rebuking Donald Trump in the House of Commons, said his opposition to a speech in Parliament by Donald Trump had been increased by the President's migrant ban British Speaker John Bercow, pictured rebuking Donald Trump in the House of Commons, said his opposition to a speech in Parliament by Donald Trump had been increased by the President's migrant ban

British Speaker John Bercow, pictured rebuking Donald Trump in the House of Commons, said his opposition to a speech in Parliament by Donald Trump had been increased by the President's migrant ban

Speaker Bercow was applauded by MPs after his intervention, prompted by a point of order from Labour MP Stephen Doughty Speaker Bercow was applauded by MPs after his intervention, prompted by a point of order from Labour MP Stephen Doughty

Speaker Bercow was applauded by MPs after his intervention, prompted by a point of order from Labour MP Stephen Doughty

US President Donald Trump speaking to troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida US President Donald Trump speaking to troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida

US President Donald Trump speaking to troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida

Fellow Conservative Nadhim Zahawi - another opponent of the US travel ban - said Mr Bercow should 'think about his position'. 

At least one MP approached Clerks last night asking about the process for calling a vote of no confidence in the Speaker, and soundings were being taken on support. Officials were said to have been 'open mouthed' at the vehemence of Mr Bercow's comments.

He is likely to be challenged on the issue when the House sits later.

Cabinet minister Sajid Javid made clear this morning that Mr Bercow did not 'speak for the government'. He insisted Mr Trump would be made 'very welcome' when the state visit takes place later this year, after Theresa May extended an invitation during her visit to the White House last month.

Since the President's executive order on immigration was imposed there have been mass protests in many cities, and more than 160 MPs have signed a motion calling for him to be denied the honour of speaking to both Houses of Parliament.

 

Mr Bercow told MPs: 'What I will say is this: an address by a foreign leader to both Houses of Parliament is not an automatic right, it is an earned honour.

'Moreover, there are many precedents for state visits to take place to our country which do not include an address to both Houses of Parliament.

'Before the imposition of the migrant ban, I would myself have been strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall.

'After the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump I am even more strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall.'

THREE KEY HOLDERS: THE POWERFUL PEOPLE IN CHARGE OF WESTMINSTER HALL

The use of Westminster Hall is closely guarded by three powerful keyholders.

The ancient hall - the oldest part of the Parliamentary estate that dates back around 1,000 years - has played a pivotal role in UK history.

It is protected by the Speakers of the Commons and Lords and the Great Lord Chamberlain, on behalf of the Queen.

Currently they are John Bercow for the Commons, Lord Fowler for the Lords and David Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley for the Queen. 

Speeches in the hall are rare. US President Barack Obama, South African President Nelson Mandela and Burma freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi are among the select few.

Events cannot take place without the agreement of the key holders.

Mr Bercow said he has less influence over whether a speech could be made by President Trump in the Royal Gallery because it is in a different part of the building.

But he told MPs it was customary for an invitation to be sent in the names of both speakers of Parliament - himself and Lord Fowler.

'I would not wish to issue an invitation to President Trump to speak in the Royal Gallery,' he told MPs.

Mr Bercow concluded: 'We value our relationship with the United States; if a state visit takes place that is way beyond and above the pay grade of the Speaker.

'However, as far as this place is concerned I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons.'

The speech was in response to a point of order raised by Labour MP Stephen Doughty.

He spoke to highlight a Commons motion opposing Mr Trump's speech. It has been signed by 163 MPs - mostly from Labour and the SNP.

But the intervention was slammed by ex-Ukip leader Nigel Farage who said: 'For Speaker Bercow to uphold our finest parliamentary traditions, he should be neutral.'

No 10 sources played down the intervention, insisting the itinerary for the visit had not been set and would be discussed 'in due course'. 

Mr Shelbrooke told MailOnline: 'I do not support the attitude or some of the policies of Donald Trump but the Speaker must remain independent. 

'I am concerned and upset that by declaring that Parliament is barring the democratically elected leader of our closest ally due to his "racism and sexism" that we have said that the human rights abuses in countries such as China and Kuwait are OK as he welcomed them to parliament. 

'It is student politics of the worst kind interested more in grandstanding than a consistent approach of dealing with world leaders with whom there are many national policies in their own countries that go against our principles and values.' 

Mr Zahawi said Mr Bercow must 'think about' his position and explain his remarks to Parliament.

President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May met at the White House last month where they attempted to rekindle the Special Relationship  President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May met at the White House last month where they attempted to rekindle the Special Relationship 

President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May met at the White House last month where they attempted to rekindle the Special Relationship 

John Bercow with the Emir of Kuwait - a country which bans Israelis and uses Sharia Law in family disputes John Bercow with the Emir of Kuwait - a country which bans Israelis and uses Sharia Law in family disputes

John Bercow with the Emir of Kuwait - a country which bans Israelis and uses Sharia Law in family disputes

Speaker Bercow raised no public objection to Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking to MPs and peers in the Royal Gallery in 2015. He watched on from the platform (pictured)  Speaker Bercow raised no public objection to Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking to MPs and peers in the Royal Gallery in 2015. He watched on from the platform (pictured) 

Speaker Bercow raised no public objection to Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking to MPs and peers in the Royal Gallery in 2015. He watched on from the platform (pictured) 

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'I think it is, in my book, unwise and he opens himself up to the accusation of hypocrisy, that's my point.

'I just think it's unwise on the Queen's Sapphire Jubilee to take a political position so blatantly against the elected leader of our closest ally when we are urging them, as I was last week - I am against the travel ban, especially for banning refugees from Syria who are desperate, who have been vetted - but it's unwise to ban the legitimately elected president of the United States of America, our closest ally when we're trying to urge them not to shoot from the hip, not to ban people, to exercise restraint, look at evidence.

'Yet we are now, or at least the Speaker of Parliament, who has a big, big responsibility, is now sort of talking the language of bans.'

Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Crispin Blunt, a Tory MP, said: 'He has no idea whether he will be speaking for a majority of the House of Commons, and this is why Speakers do not express their opinion.

'That's the entire point, otherwise they can't remain neutral and above the political fray.'

There was also an angry response from the US, with Republic congressman Joe Wilson telling Newsnight: 'That's very disappointing, because if ever in recent years there's been a more pro-British President of the United States, it's Donald Trump.'

Critics privately put the chances of a confidence vote at '40 per cent', pointing out that the government would probably abstain - meaning Mr Bercow would probably survive with support from Labour MPs. 

He has pledged to stand down by next year regardless - when he will have served nine years in the chair. 

Westminster Hall is the oldest and most hallowed of the British Parliament's buildings, dating back to 1097, and has been at the center of the country's history.

Only five foreign leaders since World War II have been invited to speak there - with Barack Obama one of them and the first US president to be afforded the honor.

Amid mass protests over the travel ban - which has been suspended by US courts - the Commons is set to debate whether to cancel the visit later in the year. However, the result would only be symbolic.

As Commons Speaker, Bercow is one of three individuals who control access to speaking rights at the hall. 

Speaker Bercow made his extraordinary intervention in the House of Commons today in response to a point of order  Speaker Bercow made his extraordinary intervention in the House of Commons today in response to a point of order 

Speaker Bercow made his extraordinary intervention in the House of Commons today in response to a point of order 

The Trump Organization owns property in Scotland.  Donald Trump gives a press conference on the 9th tee at his Trump Turnberry Resort on June 24, 2016 in Ayr, Scotland The Trump Organization owns property in Scotland.  Donald Trump gives a press conference on the 9th tee at his Trump Turnberry Resort on June 24, 2016 in Ayr, Scotland

The Trump Organization owns property in Scotland.  Donald Trump gives a press conference on the 9th tee at his Trump Turnberry Resort on June 24, 2016 in Ayr, Scotland

Lord Rickets, former permanent secretary to the British Foreign Office, previously raised doubts that Mr Trump was 'specially deserving of this exceptional honor'

He wrote that there is 'no precedent for a US president paying a state visit to this country in their first year. Most have had to wait till their third,' and added, 'now the Queen is put in a very difficult position.' 

Speeches in the hall are rare. Besides Obama, South African President Nelson Mandela and Burma freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi are among those who have been given the honor.            

TEN PREVIOUS STATE VISITS THAT ATTRACTED CONTROVERSY

From protesters toppling an effigy of George W Bush to demos against China's human rights record, state visits to the UK have had their fair share of controversy. Leaders of countries, seen as having backward laws - including Sharia Law - and issues with human rights, have been welcomed by the British governments in the past. And at least three controversial figures were allowed to address parliament by Mr Bercow himself.

2012 - Kuwait's Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah

Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, gave an address to members of both Houses of Parliament on Thursday, November 29 in the Queen’s Robing Room, as part of his state visit to the UK Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, gave an address to members of both Houses of Parliament on Thursday, November 29 in the Queen’s Robing Room, as part of his state visit to the UK

Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, gave an address to members of both Houses of Parliament on Thursday, November 29 in the Queen's Robing Room, as part of his state visit to the UK

Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, gave an address to members of both Houses of Parliament on Thursday, November 29 in the Queen's Robing Room, as part of his state visit to the UK.

Following his arrival at Sovereign's Entrance, The Emir of Kuwait was received by Black Rod, Lieutenant General David Leakey and was taken to the Queen's Robing Room.

Commons Speaker, John Bercow MP, gave a welcome address introducing The Emir of Kuwait's speech.  

Kuwait has banned its citizens from entering 'into an agreement, personally or indirectly, with entities or persons residing in Israel, or with Israeli citizenship'.

The country also uses Sharia Law for family disputes - where a woman's testimony is not valued as highly as a man's.

2015 - China's President Xi Jinping

The extraordinary intervention at a key moment in British-Chinese relations will cause deep embarrassment for the government which hopes to use the visit to secure billions of pounds in trade deals. Pictured is President Xi addressing MPs and peers The extraordinary intervention at a key moment in British-Chinese relations will cause deep embarrassment for the government which hopes to use the visit to secure billions of pounds in trade deals. Pictured is President Xi addressing MPs and peers

The extraordinary intervention at a key moment in British-Chinese relations will cause deep embarrassment for the government which hopes to use the visit to secure billions of pounds in trade deals. Pictured is President Xi addressing MPs and peers

Protesters attempting to highlight human rights violations clashed with pro-China supporters during a procession welcoming Chinese president Xi to the UK.

Scuffles broke out between the two groups after the police perimeter set up for protesters was ignored by both sides.

But thousands of supporters also lined The Mall to welcome Xi Jinping with flags, T-shirts and hats - provided by the Chinese embassy.

1971 - Japan's Emperor Hirohito

Emperor Hirohito, Japan's wartime head of state, made his first state visit to Britain in 1971 Emperor Hirohito, Japan's wartime head of state, made his first state visit to Britain in 1971

Emperor Hirohito, Japan's wartime head of state, made his first state visit to Britain in 1971

Emperor Hirohito, Japan's wartime head of state, made his first state visit to Britain in 1971.

Former prisoners of war - angry at Japan's brutal militaristic past - protested by standing in silence as his carriage drove past.

Some turned their back on the emperor and wore red gloves to symbolise war deaths while others whistled the popular Second World War march, Colonel Bogey.

They called on Japan to offer them compensation and a full apology for their treatment during the war.

1978 Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu

The President of Rumania, Nicolae Ceausescu, rides through London with the Queen in an open carriage, at the start of his state visit The President of Rumania, Nicolae Ceausescu, rides through London with the Queen in an open carriage, at the start of his state visit

The President of Rumania, Nicolae Ceausescu, rides through London with the Queen in an open carriage, at the start of his state visit

It was the first state visit by a Communist head of state to the UK and Romania was already well-known as one of the most corrupt and oppressive of the Soviet Union's Cold War satellite states.

The Queen took drastic steps to avoid meeting Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu any more than necessary, according to royal author Robert Hardman.

'While walking her dogs in the Palace gardens, she spotted Ceausescu and his wife Elena heading in her direction.

'As the Queen told a lunch guest some years later, she decided the best course of action was to hide behind a bush rather than conduct polite conversation,' he wrote.

1998 Japan's Emperor Akihito

Just like his father did in 1971, Akihito met obvious hostility on London's streets from British prisoners of war.

Former PoWs symbolically turned their backs on him, while others jeered him.

Addressing the state banquet, Akihito spoke of his 'deep sorrow and pain' over the suffering inflicted by his country during the war, but did not apologise for the treatment of prisoners in work camps.

2003 - Russia's Vladimir Putin

Her Majesty invited Russian President Vladimir Putin for a state visit in June 2003 Her Majesty invited Russian President Vladimir Putin for a state visit in June 2003

Her Majesty invited Russian President Vladimir Putin for a state visit in June 2003

Mr Putin's historic trip was the first by a Russian head of state since Tsar Nicholas I in 1843.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups used the visit to highlight ongoing reports of killings, rape and torture by Russian forces in Chechnya.

2003 - US president George W Bush

Tens of thousands of people came out to protest against George W Bush over the war in Iraq when the Queen hosted him in 2003. Pictured, the Queen and the President at Windsor Castle Tens of thousands of people came out to protest against George W Bush over the war in Iraq when the Queen hosted him in 2003. Pictured, the Queen and the President at Windsor Castle

Tens of thousands of people came out to protest against George W Bush over the war in Iraq when the Queen hosted him in 2003. Pictured, the Queen and the President at Windsor Castle

President George Bush's state visit, while Tony Blair was prime minister, was highly controversial.

Tens of thousands of people came out to protest against the American leader and the war in Iraq, amid unprecedented security for a state visit.

Demonstrations throughout Mr Bush's stay were mostly peaceful, and peaked with the toppling of an effigy of Mr Bush in Trafalgar Square, which parodied scenes of the capture of Baghdad.

Stop The War Coalition said some 200,000 joined the demonstration.

One protester threw an egg at the presidential cavalcade, but missed.

2005 - Chinese president Hu Jintao

Tony Blair, Prime Minister, sees off President Hu Jintao of China (waving) from 10 Downing Street, London Tony Blair, Prime Minister, sees off President Hu Jintao of China (waving) from 10 Downing Street, London

Tony Blair, Prime Minister, sees off President Hu Jintao of China (waving) from 10 Downing Street, London

Noisy protests against Chinese rule in Tibet targeted Hu Jintao's state carriage procession.

The Metropolitan Police was criticised for its hardline handling of the peaceful demonstrations, and admitted following a High Court case its officers acted unlawfully when they removed protesters' banners and flags.

The Prince of Wales, a supporter of the Dalai Lama, had been accused of boycotting a Chinese state visit to the UK in 1999 by failing to attend the return banquet held for then-president Jiang Zemin.

This time, during Hu Jintao's stay, Charles carefully side-stepped the issue by being out of the country on a tour of the US on the night of the official dinner.

He did not meet Mr Hu on the remaining two days of his visit.

2007 - Saudi Arabia's king Abdullah

Saudi Arabia's king Abdullah's state visit in 2007 revived controversy over his regime's abuse of human rights   Saudi Arabia's king Abdullah's state visit in 2007 revived controversy over his regime's abuse of human rights  

Saudi Arabia's king Abdullah's state visit in 2007 revived controversy over his regime's abuse of human rights  

The first state visit by a Saudi king to the UK for 20 years revived controversy over the regime's abuse of human rights and the government's halting of a Serious Fraud Office bribery inquiry into the al-Yamamah arms deal.

Tensions surrounding the trip were heightened when the king insisted in an interview Britain was not doing enough to tackle terrorism.

Around 100 human rights and anti-arms trade activists jeered and shouted 'shame on you' as the royal procession passed along The Mall in central London.

2010 - Qatar's Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani

Prince Philip, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned, Queen Elizabeth II and Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani Prince Philip, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned, Queen Elizabeth II and Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani

Prince Philip, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned, Queen Elizabeth II and Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani

Queen Elizabeth II and Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani Queen Elizabeth II and Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani

Queen Elizabeth II and Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani

The Emir of Qatar - a country which practices Sharia Law, involving lashes as punishments - was welcomed by Mr Bercow on October 26, 2010.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani was welcomed by the Commons Speaker, John Bercow and thanked by the Lord Speaker, Baroness Hayman. 

The Sheikh also met the Queen with his second of three wives, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned. 

 

 

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