Former speaker John Bercow says joining Labour ‘not personal against Boris Johnson'

Former Tory MP and Commons speaker John Bercow has said his decision to join the Labour Party is not “personal against Boris Johnson”. 

Bercow revealed he had switched allegiances from the Conservative Party on Saturday. 

Speaking to Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday morning, he said the decision was not because of the prime minister personally.

However, he criticised Johnson for having “only a nodding acquaintance with the truth”.

Bercow served as a Conservative MP for Buckingham from 1997 until he was elected speaker in 2009. 

The former Tory MP told Phillips that he “didn’t have the slightest desire” to rejoin the Conservative Party after stepping down as speaker in 2019.

Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow walks over Westminster Bridge from a session in the gym this morning on his last day as Speaker of the House of Commons, after 10 years in the chair.
Commons speaker John Bercow pictured as he prepared to step down from speaker in 2019. (PA)

He also said that he now has a “left of centre view” and believes Labour leader Keir Starmer would be a “vastly preferable” leader than Johnson.

“If you're saying to me is it principally about Boris Johnson, the honest answer to that is no," he said. "It is not personal against Boris Johnson.

"I do think that he is someone who has only a nodding acquaintance with the truth in a leap year and I think that the utter contempt with which he has treated Parliament is lamentable and it has exacerbated the very strong feelings of resentment towards him - because I think a lot of people feel that is not the way to behave."

Bercow also dismissed claims that he defected to the Labour Party to get a peerage after it was denied him by Johnson's government when he stood down as speaker.

When he announced his defection on Saturday, Bercow also launched a scathing attack on Boris Johnson’s Conservative party as "reactionary, populist, nationalistic and sometimes even xenophobic".

Watch: John Bercow quits Tories to join Labour saying: 'This government needs to be replaced'.

He told the Observer: "I am motivated by support for equality, social justice and internationalism. That is the Labour brand.

"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."

Since the news emerged, the former speaker has been accused of "prejudice" as well as joining a “sinking ship”.

Justice secretary Robert Buckland told Sky News that Bercow left the Conservative party “a long time ago”, adding that he has diminished his influence by supporting Labour.

He said: "I think him joining a political party actually has the effect of diminishing the force of his voice in politics, however strong he wants it to be.”

Conservative MP Guy Opperman said: “From bad to worse for Kier Starmer. Labour are welcome to Bercow.”

Tory MP Bernard Jenkin tweeted: “The proper role of an ex-Speaker is to demonstrate their impartiality by remaining impartial after they have left that office. Mr Bercow is reinforcing just how prejudiced he was as Speaker.”

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage weighed in saying: “Bercow backed the Remain sabotage campaign in Parliament and now joins the Labour Party. He loves a sinking ship.”

On the Labour side, former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “When he was Speaker, John Bercow was scrupulously fair in his treatment of Jeremy Corbyn & me & all Members in the Commons. 

“He won our respect, especially for his fight to protect the rights of Parliament. I wholeheartedly welcome him into the Labour party.”

Watch: Order! John Bercow's legacy as speaker