LONDON (AFP) – The colorful former speaker of Britain’s House of Commons John Bercow said he has left the Conservatives to join the opposition Labour Party, saying the country is “sick of lies” under Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
In an interview with the Observer newspaper published on Sunday, the former MP said the Conservative Party under Johnson was “reactionary, populist, nationalistic and sometimes even xenophobic”.
Bercow, who stepped down as speaker in October 2019 after 10 years, said he joined the Labour Party a few weeks ago because he shared its values.
“I am motivated by support for equality, social justice and internationalism. That is the Labour brand,” he told the Observer.
“The conclusion I have reached is that this government needs to be replaced. The reality is that the Labour Party is the only vehicle that can achieve that objective. There is no other credible option.”
In an interview with Sky News, Bercow insisted his decision was “not personal against Boris Johnson”.
But in scathing comments, he said Johnson had “only a nodding acquaintance with the truth in a leap year” and the way he treated parliament “with contempt” was “lamentable”.
Bercow also told The Observer the prime minister was “a successful campaigner but a lousy governor”, criticizing policies such as cutting the international aid budget.
“I don’t think he has any vision of a more equitable society, any thirst for social mobility or any passion to better the lot of people less fortunate than he is. I think increasingly people are sick of lies, sick of empty slogans, sick of a failure to deliver,” he told the Observer.
Bercow also directed a jibe at health minister Matt Hancock, widely criticized for his handling of the pandemic, telling Sky: “I would buy him at my valuation and sell him at his and realize a healthy profit in the process”.
Bercow entered parliament as a Conservative in 1997 and served as speaker from 2009 to 2019 during which he had clashed with Johnson and his predecessor Theresa May over their approach to Brexit and treatment of parliament.
Many Conservatives and Brexit supporters thought Bercow lacked the political neutrality required by the position of speaker.
While Bercow worked as speaker he faced several accusations of bullying parliamentary employees, although he denied all the accusations.