By Adam Shaw, ,
Published February 07, 2017
The speaker of Britain's House of Commons sparked a backlash Monday after announcing he does not want President Trump to address Parliament – with opponents accusing him of hypocrisy for having welcomed leaders from places like North Korea.
Prime Minister Theresa May had invited Trump to make a state visit to the U.K. during her own trip to Washington last month. While travel plans have not been set, such state visits sometimes include an address to both Houses of Parliament.
However, Speaker John Bercow, who is supposed to be politically neutral in his role, said Monday he would oppose an address from Trump, particularly due to “the migrant ban.”
“An address by a foreign leader to other houses of Parliament is not an automatic right, it is an earned honor,” he said. “After the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump, I am even more strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall.”
For an address to Parliament to occur, an invite must be issued by speakers from both Houses of Parliaments, as well as the Lord Great Chamberlain on behalf of the Queen.
“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 of Commons,” he said.
While the speaker’s remarks were welcomed by left-wing politicians -- with Green Party MP Caroline Lucas praising him for stopping May from “pimping out Parliament” -- others were livid. Conservative MP John Whittingdale called Bercow’s speech “a performance.”
“It was John Bercow playing to the gallery and I think it was damaging to the national interest,” he told Sky News.
Bercow also faced accusations of hypocrisy. U.K. political blog Guido Fawkes noted that leaders from China, Kuwait, Indonesia and Singapore – all countries with poor human rights records – have been welcomed to address Parliament by Bercow.
“Bercow lavished praise on the human rights abusing leaders of Kuwait, Indonesia, Singapore and China, yet bans Trump to grab headlines,” the blog said.
Kuwait has no laws criminalizing domestic violence or marital rape, while homosexuality is punishable by seven years in prison, according to Human Rights Watch. Bercow introduced Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah in 2012, calling it his "privilege" to welcome the emir to Parliament.
Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi said in a BBC interview that the invite to the Kuwait emir "exposes him to the accusation of hypocrisy" in the wake of his Trump statement.
Guido Fawkes also linked to a government document showing that in 2011, Bercow served tea to the speaker of North Korea. Former UKIP leader and Fox News contributor Nigel Farage reacted to the report by branding Bercow a “total hypocrite.”
Bercow prefers North Korea to President Trump. Total hypocrite. https://t.co/Zq5scSRkm4— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) February 7, 2017
10 Downing Street did not return a request for comment from Fox News. The speaker’s office declined to comment on the accusations of hypocrisy.
Bercow’s move is likely to further sour his already hostile relationship with Tory MPs. In 2010, Conservative MP Simon Burns called the 5-foot, 6-inch speaker a "stupid, sanctimonious dwarf.” Another MP told The Daily Telegraph in 2015 that Bercow is “gratuitously unpleasant, nasty, bitchy and childish.”
The Telegraph itself lambasted Bercow in an editorial Monday: "No doubt this latest act of self-indulgent attention-seeking is another part of his legacy-building. In fact, he will go down in history as a Speaker whose arrogance and self-regard besmirched his great office."
Bercow’s reputation for seeking the limelight also extends to his wife, Sally Bercow, who has appeared on TV show “Celebrity Big Brother,” and was roundly criticized by Tories in 2012 when she posed for a London newspaper in nothing but a bedsheet, and called her husband’s role an “aphrodisiac.”
“I never realised then how sexy I would find living under Big Ben with the bells chiming,” she told the London Evening Standard.
In 2015 Bercow was subject to a coup attempt by then-Leader of the House William Hague – a coup reportedly backed by then-Prime Minister David Cameron, with whom Bercow had publicly clashed on a number of occasions.
While Bercow survived the vote, with the help of Labour MPs, his snub of Trump could embolden his critics.
Tory MP Nadine Dorries told the BBC Monday: "When he loses support for what was a very partisan moment I think his position will become more and more in jeopardy.”