Is Bercow out of order for speaking out over Trump?

John Bercow has spoken up over Donald Trump's state visit, notes Matthew Partridge. But not everyone is amused.


John Bercow: "hypocritical and unwise"?
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John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, "has thrown Donald Trump's state visit into further chaos", says Stephen Bush in the New Statesman. The US president will not be invited to address MPs and peers in Westminster Hall, or in the Royal Gallery, on his visit to the UK. Since the rules state that the speaker "must extend their invitation for either event to take place, the president will have to find another venue". Yet even if one was found, or Bercow changes his mind, there is a "real risk of empty chairs in the audience".

While Downing Street seems happy "to turn Britain into a client state of Trump's America... Bercow spoke for Britain", claims Owen Jones in The Guardian. The speaker has made "commendable efforts to combat racism and sexism in politics". To have avoided speaking out on Trump "would have been hypocritical". A state visit to the UK, let alone the privilege of addressing parliament, is "an honour some presidents have never received".

Bercow "has done much to empower backbench MPs and ensure the Commons is the cockpit of British democracy", says Sebastian Payne in the Financial Times. But his latest move is "hypocritical and unwise". Bercow "did not object to China's President Xi Jinping, the emir of Kuwait, or President Yudhoyono of Indonesia speaking in the Palace of Westminster". More importantly, his role "is supposed to be a neutral and non-partisan" one. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the situation, Bercow "has no business intervening on foreign policy".

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Yet he has a point, says Janet Daley in The Daily Telegraph. "Brexit meant Brexit", but it "doesn't mean Trump". Prime Minister Theresa May "has gone a long way to persuading everybody that she has real influence over the president". But how much is this worth "from a man whose behaviour is so erratic and inappropriate for high office"? Given that Britain is about to leave the European Union, "more than ever, at this point in its history, the UK cannot afford to be portrayed as defending the indefensible".

Bercow's statement "reflects a profound decay in the British public's enthusiasm for the special relationship'", says Eric Levitz in New York Magazine. And the British aren't alone. "Two weeks into the Trump presidency, a leading German newspaper has called on all freedom-loving peoples to mobilise against the US", while "a senior cabinet minister in the Australian government has coined the phrase normal Trump Tantrum'". It seems that "Trump is well on his way to remaking America in his own image".

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri