Who is John Bercow? The former Commons speaker appearing on The Traitors US | Ents & Arts News

Jan 24, 2024 | Uncategorized

Former Commons speaker John Bercow may yet again be calling for “order!” over the coming weeks – but this time he’ll be shouting at game show contestants rather than Members of Parliament.

Bercow is featuring in the US celebrity version of The Traitors, which involves him and fellow contestants trying to figure out who among them is a traitor, and who isn’t, for a cash prize, in what is branded “the ultimate game of deception”.

But who is the 61-year-old and why is he appearing on the game show? Here’s what you need to know.

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A reminder of Bercow’s style as speaker

Career before parliament

Bercow was a public affairs consultant at Rowland Sallingbury Casey from 1988 to 1995, working his way up from account executive to board director in five years.

He then worked as special adviser to the chief secretary to the Treasury and as special adviser to the secretary of state for National Heritage, before entering Parliament in 1997.

Early political career

Undoubtedly known best for his passionate pronouncements as House of Commons speaker, some may not know as much about Bercow’s extensive political career.

He started out as the Conservative MP for Buckingham in 1997, joining the frontbench in 1999 as shadow minister for education, then shadow spokesperson for home affairs a year later.

In 2001 he joined the shadow cabinet when then Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith made him shadow chief secretary to the Treasury.

He resigned from the frontbench in 2002 in protest to his party’s opposition of Labour’s plans to allow unmarried gay and heterosexual couples to adopt children.

He later became shadow secretary for international development, then returned to the backbenches in 2004.

More than 10 years as speaker

Bercow resigned from the Tory party in 2009 when he accepted the role as speaker, as it’s mandatory that the speaker becomes impartial when they take the job.

The speaker is an MP who has been elected by other MPs to act as chair during debates in the Commons.

They are responsible for ensuring that the rules are observed and order is maintained in the chamber, which is why you may have seen some of the countless clips of Bercow shouting over MPs when they get too rowdy.

He went on to become the longest-serving speaker since Edward FitzRoy, who served nearly 15 years in post between 1928 and 1943.

He presided over numerous Brexit rows in the Commons before resigning in 2019, saying serving as speaker had been “the greatest honour of my professional life”.

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Tearful Bercow announces resignation in 2019

He controversially defected to the Labour Party rather than going back to the Conservatives, having had many run-ins with Theresa May’s government.

Conservative bosses were said to have broke historical convention by failing to nominate the former Commons speaker for a seat in the House of Lords.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn then reportedly nominated Mr Bercow for a peerage, but this was blocked due to the investigation into alleged wrongdoing.

He was the first speaker not to be offered a peerage in over 200 years.

Bullying accusations

In 2020, a number of bullying allegations were levelled at Bercow by his former most senior official, Lord Lisvane, and former Black Rod, David Leakey.

The former speaker said the accusations he “brutalised” parliamentary staff and politicians were “total and utter rubbish”.

But in March 2022 he was found guilty of bullying staff by the standards watchdog and banned from parliament for life.

A report published by the Independent Expert Panel into the former Commons speaker’s conduct stated Bercow “has been a serial liar” and “a serial bully”.

He was also administratively suspended from the Labour Party due to the findings, and no public update on the matter has been issued since. Sky News has contacted Labour for any update.

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‘Kangaroo court’ – Bercow denies bullying verdict

The panel found Bercow’s conduct “was repeated and sustained” and there was “no doubt” that victims were telling the truth.

Bercow denied the validity of the findings, saying there was “no serious evidence” of him bullying staff and that the inquiry was “a kangaroo court”.

Why is he on The Traitors US?

The move made sense for Bercow, who has already appeared on other game shows like The Weakest Link and The Wheel since leaving politics.

The Traitors UK has picked up a huge following since its launch just over a year ago. It’s gaining even more traction through its second season, which concludes this Friday.

While it’s not known exactly why the former politician was picked for the US version of the show, Bercow did make international headlines in 2019, when the world took particular interest British Parliament as Theresa May battled to save her premiership and get Brexit back on track.

Foreign news organisations and social media were lapping up the then speaker’s brash antics.

In fact, one Canadian Broadcasting Corporation news editor wrote about him on X, formerly Twitter, saying: “Sitting in the newsroom today and hearing that voice, I thought someone in the control room decided they’d rather watch a Pirates Of The Caribbean movie than news.”

How’s Bercow getting on in The Traitors? (Spoilers!)

Four episodes of the second US season have come out so far this month, leading to seven of the 21 contestants leaving the castle in the Scottish Highlands.

Bercow is still going strong after the following names exited:

  • Johnny ‘Bananas’ Devenanzio (Faithful) – Murdered
  • Peppermint (Faithful) – Banished
  • Marcus Jordan (Faithful) – Murdered
  • Maksim Chmerkovskiy (Faithful) – Banished
  • Deontay Wilder (Faithful) – Quit
  • Ekin-Su Culculoglu (Faithful) – Murdered
  • Larsa Pippen (Faithful) – Banished

And John Bercow is… not a traitor.

Rather remarkably, though, he introduced himself in the first episode by saying: “I’m a retired politician. Backstabbing, deception are all part and parcel of the political life.”

Can I watch the show?

As it stands, American streaming service Peacock is the only company with rights to the show’s second season, and is releasing episodes weekly.

BBC holds the UK rights and has just put season one of the US show on BBC iPlayer, but it is not known if they will do the same with season two.

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