His detractors – and there more than a few – called him “Squeaker Bercow”. It was not a particularly well-chosen soubriquet, even if intended satirically. John Bercow may have been diminutive, but his voice was big, and he was happy to use it, both literally and metaphorically, to defend the rights and prerogatives of the House of Commons. Parliament is the poorer for his retirement after a turbulent decade as speaker.
Bumptious, a bit of a show-off, at times insufferably pompous – yes, all of those things. But the most serious charge laid against Mr Bercow was that he was biased against either the Conservatives, or against Brexit, or, indeed, both. He was biased, always and everywhere, in favour of the Commons itself, which is to say in relation to an over-mighty executive, and in favour of the constitutional supremacy of the House of Commons, which was not abolished by the 2016 EU referendum.
As the years since the vote dragged on, as parliament itself became increasingly fragmented and fractious, and as the Brexit process grew more confused and chaotic, at times it seemed that the only figure standing in the way of a complete political meltdown was Mr Bercow.
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