LONDON: The colourful former speaker of Britain's House of Commons John Bercow said he has left the Conservatives to join the opposition Labour Party, launching a blistering attack on 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. 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," he told the Observer.
Bercow described the prime minister as "a successful campaigner but a lousy governor". "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 said.
Bercow served as a Conservative MP for Buckingham for 12 years before being elected speaker in 2009, becoming the youngest person to hold the role for 100 years.
Famed for his shouts of "Order, order!" to bring raucous MPs in line, Bercow found himself as the man in the middle of more than three years of fiery parliamentary debates on Britain's withdrawal from the European Union.
He enraged the ruling Conservatives with a series of decisions they saw as trying to stymie Brexit and favouring the "Remain" side.
The 58-year-old vehemently denied ever taking sides but earned praise from pro-Europeans and a global following with his rulings and outsized personality. His later years as speaker were overshadowed by allegations of bullying parliamentary staff, accusations he denies.
Labour's former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Bercow had been "scrupulously fair" in his treatment of MPs. "He won our respect, especially for his fight to protect the rights of Parliament. I wholeheartedly welcome him into the Labour party," McDonnell tweeted.
For the Conservatives however, pensions minister Guy Opperman said: "Labour are welcome to Bercow."