Tory MPs planning no-confidence vote over Speaker's Trump comments

John Bercow infuriated some MPs when he said he would not allow Trump to address both Houses of Parliament

Conservative MPs have urged Theresa May to clear the way for a vote of no confidence in the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, after his outspoken remarks about the US president, Donald Trump, earlier this week.

One backbencher, James Duddridge, the MP for Rochford and Southend East, has written to the prime minister asking her to confirm that she would offer ministers a free vote if a vote of no confidence is called.

Backbenchers told the Guardian they have already approached the clerks of the House of Commons to ask whether they can table a motion – though it would be unlikely to succeed.

Bercow infuriated some MPs when he said he would not countenance the idea of Trump addressing both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall.

Some MPs appear to hope that Bercow will step down before any vote is called, as one of his predecessors, Michael Martin, did after losing the backing of the then prime minister, Gordon Brown, at the height of the scandal over MPs’ expenses.

Bercow told MPs on Monday afternoon that he had been against the idea of Trump addressing MPs and peers in Westminster Hall and that recent policies, such as Trump’s order banning entry to the US of people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, had left him even more determined to block the move.

He said: “I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the house.”

Duddridge had been hoping to ask May the question directly at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, but Bercow did not call him to speak. Duddridge later released a copy of his letter to her, after ITV’s Robert Peston revealed a scrawled note of the question he had planned to ask.

A spokesman for May said no vote had yet been called, and they would not speculate on how they would handle one.

Commons Speaker ‘strongly opposed’ to Westminster Hall address by President Trump

A number of Conservatives accused Bercow of overstepping the mark at a time when the government’s foreign policy is to build bridges with the new US administration, and several plan to join the bid to table a motion of no confidence.

But other backbenchers said the disgruntled Conservative MPs were unlikely to get the backing of enough of their colleagues to oust Bercow, and the government would not want to see him step down.

“However irritating Bercow is, it’s a very destabilising thing to get rid of a Speaker, and quite a lot of Tory MPs have a grudging respect for him,” said one Commons veteran.

Bercow’s stance also appeared to have irritated the Lords Speaker, Norman Fowler, who issued his own statement on Tuesday. “I should make it clear that I was not consulted on that decision or its timing,” he told peers, adding that Bercow had said sorry for not informing him in advance.

May confirmed during her recent trip to the White House that Trump had accepted an invitation from the Queen to pay a state visit to the UK later this year. But the plan has caused disquiet among some MPs and sparked protests.


Heather Stewart and Anushka Asthana

The GuardianTramp

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