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Brexit Britain's bombastic Speaker of the House

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on March 20, 2019 - Duration: 02:16s

Brexit Britain's bombastic Speaker of the House

With humorous diatribes and barked commands, UK parliament's Speaker of the House John Bercow is often the subject of viral videos and memes.

He's also become a powerful force in the country's Brexit chaos.

Matthew Larotonda and William James report.

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Brexit Britain's bombastic Speaker of the House

Brexiteers aren't happy with this man right now: the UK's Speaker of the House John Bercow.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE, JOHN BERCOW, SAYING: "Order!

Order!" A destroyer, saboteur, according to the tabloids.

Why?

The speaker is generally a procedural role, like a parliamentary referee.

Many know Bercow from viral videos and memes for his unique style.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE, JOHN BERCOW, SAYING: "Finger-wagging and head-shaking going on which maybe be personally therapeutic but is disadvantageous." But he's also sometimes a thorn in the side of Brexiteers and Prime Minister Theresa May's government.

Just this week he evoked an obscure precedent from the 17th century to effectively torpedo what could have been May's third attempt to ram her Brexit deal through.

Reuters correspondent Will James: (SOUNDBITE) (English) WILLIAM JAMES, REUTERS UK POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, SAYING: "The Speaker's power at the moment comes from the fact that Brexit has become bogged down in the weeds of parliamentary process.

And when it comes to parliamentary process, Bercow's word is the rule, basically.

Anything that he says, goes.

And there's lots of rules that are up to interpretation when it comes to what MPs should be able to discuss, what they should be able to vote upon, how centuries-old precedents are interpreted.

That's all down to him and that's the power that he's been exercising in the last few months.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) WILLIAM JAMES, REUTERS UK POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, SAYING: "In normal times Theresa May, with a majority government behind her, would be able to simply just change the rules.

Standing orders can be changed on any given day just by a simple vote in parliament.

But she doesn't have a majority so she doesn't have the power to do it.

And that brings everything back to John Bercow and his rulings.

That's why they're so important." Bercow is also a divisive figure for other reasons.

He's faced allegations of bullying from some of his former staff.

He's also been criticized for reports of sexual harassment in parliament that happened under his watch.

Allies though, say he gives a voice to rank and file lawmakers who wouldn't otherwise be heard.

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