In Britain, House Of Commons Speaker John Bercow To Step Down The speaker of the House of Commons announced he will step down Oct. 31. The Commons again rejected the prime minister's demand for early elections. Parliament is in recess until mid-October.
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In Britain, House Of Commons Speaker John Bercow To Step Down

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In Britain, House Of Commons Speaker John Bercow To Step Down

In Britain, House Of Commons Speaker John Bercow To Step Down

In Britain, House Of Commons Speaker John Bercow To Step Down

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/759296485/759296486" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The speaker of the House of Commons announced he will step down Oct. 31. The Commons again rejected the prime minister's demand for early elections. Parliament is in recess until mid-October.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

JOHN BERCOW: Order.

Order.

Order.

Order.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Who is yelling at us? Well, that foghorn voice belongs to John Bercow. He is speaker of the British House of Commons. And yeah, he sometimes sounds more like the ringmaster of the circus. Yesterday, Bercow announced he is going to be stepping down after a decade in the speaker's chair. And NPR's Frank Langfitt has more from London.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Bercow said he had promised his wife Sally would step down before the next election, which is expected eventually later this fall. Bercow, who's 56, spoke of how much he would miss the Commons.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERCOW: This is a wonderful place, filled overwhelmingly by people who are motivated by their notion of the national interest, by their perception of the public good and by their duty.

LANGFITT: True to form, Bercow saved the announcement for another momentous day in the British Parliament, as lawmakers again rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson's bid for a general election and Johnson suspended Parliament for five weeks as the clock winds down toward the Brexit deadline of October 31, a move some parliamentarians called anti-democratic. During his address, Bercow issued this warning, seemingly with the prime minister in mind.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERCOW: We degrade this Parliament at our peril.

(CHEERING)

LANGFITT: Bercow gained attention in Britain and beyond for the theatrical style with which he's run the Commons. Sometimes the speaker, who stands 5-foot-6, played the stern schoolmaster.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERCOW: Mr. Shellbrook, be quiet. I know you feel strongly, and I respect that. I'm not having you shouting out. You either undertake now to be quiet or I strongly advise you to leave the chamber for the rest of the debate. Stop it.

LANGFITT: Other times, Bercow came off as a walking thesaurus.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERCOW: People making an extraordinary noise from a sedentary position haven't got the slightest prospect of being called to ask a question, unless on the paper - if they realize that and recognize their own folly. Jeremy Corbyn.

LANGFITT: But Bercow has been as controversial as he's been entertaining. In the 2016 Brexit referendum, he voted to stay in the European Union, and Brexiteers claim he bent parliamentary rules to favor pro-EU lawmakers. Early this morning, as Parliament was suspended, Bercow was again his outspoken self, criticizing the Prime Minister for sidelining Parliament for such a long time at a crucial moment in the country's political history.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERCOW: It is not standard. It's one of the longest for decades. And it represents, not just in the minds of many colleagues but huge numbers of people outside, an act of executive fiat.

(CHEERING)

LANGFITT: A brief scuffle broke out as opposition legislators tried to prevent the suspension. It concluded with a grinning Bercow shaking the hands of the remaining lawmakers as they filed out of the Commons.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News, London.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAMMAL HANDS' "SOLITARY BEE")

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