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Brexit and the Speaker’s Tale

The recent dramatic intervention in the Brexit debate by the Speaker of the British House of Commons highlights the continued importance of a 643-year-old institution. But whether current incumbent John Bercow is upholding the office's honorable tradition of speaking truth to power probably depends on one's view of Brexit.

OXFORD – The Speaker of Britain’s House of Commons, John Bercow, is all over the news in the United Kingdom at the moment. And, as the Brexit crisis rumbles on, he has become something of a YouTube star across Europe.

On March 18, Bercow revived a parliamentary rule from 1604 to prevent Prime Minister Theresa May’s government from bringing the same withdrawal agreement with the European Union back to Parliament after two earlier lopsided votes against it.

The Speaker’s position goes back much further even than 1604. But, because Bercow’s intervention has changed the trajectory of Brexit, the office has attracted more attention than it has in a very long time. Where did the Speaker come from, and why was the position created during England’s so-called “Good Parliament” of 1376?