Former UK House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said on Sunday he has quit the governing Conservatives to join the opposition Labour Party.
The lawmaker gained international fame refereeing the country’s political drama over Brexit in his role of Speaker, responsible for running House of Commons business and interpreting Parliament's rules of procedure.
Bercow told The Observer newspaper that the Conservatives under Johnson had become “reactionary, populist, nationalistic and sometimes even xenophobic.”
“The conclusion I have reached is that this government needs to be replaced,” he said. “The reality is that the Labour Party is the only vehicle that can achieve that objective.”
Bercow has been a strong critic of Johnson, a champion of Brexit whose rise has coincided with an exodus of pro-EU politicians from the Conservative Party.
He angered the Conservative governments of Prime Minister Theresa May and her successor, Boris Johnson, by giving legislators chances to stymie proposed legislation about the UK’s exit from the European Union.
He became a hero to opponents of Brexit and a villain to its supporters, and was recognised around the world for his loud ties and even louder calls of “Order!”
Bercow also was accused during his career of bullying members of his staff, claims he denied. He stepped down in 2019.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland rejected the characterisation of the Conservative party as xenophobic. Bercow’s decision to forgo political neutrality “actually has the effect of diminishing the force of his voice in politics,” she said.