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Emotional John Bercow thanks family and staff at final PMQs as Speaker

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn led the thanks to Mr Bercow.

Speaker John Bercow is stepping down (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)
Speaker John Bercow is stepping down (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

By Richard Wheeler, George Ryan, Sophie Morris and Ian Jones, PA

John Bercow fought back tears as he paid tribute to family and former staff during his record-breaking final Prime Minister’s Questions as Speaker.

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn led the thanks to Mr Bercow as he prepared to step down after a decade in the role, with his departure from the role expected on Thursday.

After he allowed questions to the PM to run for 71 minutes – beating the previous record of 64 minutes during Theresa May’s final appearance as PM in July – Mr Bercow looked up to a side gallery in the Commons where friends and family sat.

His voice cracked with emotion as he thanked staff past and present before addressing his wife Sally and their three children.

He said his family have displayed “support, stoicism and fortitude through thick and thin” during the last decade.

Mr Bercow said: “I will never forget it and I’ll always be grateful for it.”

MPs applauded at this point.

Earlier, Mr Johnson said: “After 10 tumultuous years this is your last Prime Minister’s Questions.

“As befits a distinguished former Wimbledon competitor, you have sat up there in your high chair not just as an umpire ruthlessly adjudicating on the finer points of parliamentary procedure with your trademark Tony Montana scowl.

“Not just as a commentator offering your own opinions on the rallies you are watching, sometimes acerbic and sometimes kindly, but above all as a player in your own right.

“Peppering every part of the chamber with your own thoughts and opinions, like some uncontrollable tennis ball machine, delivering a series of literally unplayable, unreturnable volleys and smashes.

“Although we may disagree about some of the legislative innovations you have favoured, there is no doubt in my mind that you have been a great servant of this Parliament and of this House of Commons.”

He added Mr Bercow has done “more than anyone since Stephen Hawking to stretch time in this particular session” to aid backbench MPs, before joking it was the “longest retirement since Frank Sinatra”.

Labour leader Mr Corbyn said the Speaker has “stood up for Parliament when it had to be stood up for”.

He also joked: “I hope you will indulge me one moment while I say a word about you, I’m sure you will.

“I want to thank you for the way you have used your speakership in your decade-long tenure that you have had. You’ve done so much to reform this House of Commons and our democracy is the stronger for the way you have done it.

“You have served for 10 years, you’ve given real power to backbenchers, vastly expanded the use of urgent questions which has been overwhelmingly popular with all Government ministers and opened up the number of emergency debates which has been even more popular with even more Government ministers.”

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John Bercow and his wife Sally (PA)

Independent MP and former minister Ken Clarke, the Father of the House, also said: “During your decade, there have been unprecedented attempts really to try to, at times, increase the power of the executive at the expense of this Parliament, and you have been very formidable in maintaining the duty of government to be accountable to this House.

“I trust your successor will try to live up to your very considerable achievement.”

Mr Bercow entered Parliament in 1997 and held several shadow ministerial positions before taking the Speaker’s chair, promising to serve “no more than nine years in total”.

He abandoned that commitment ahead of the 2017 snap election, but allegations of bullying by former members of his staff, denied by the Speaker, led to fresh calls for him to quit.

In recent months, he has also come under fire for a series of controversial rulings in the chamber which were widely considered to favour Remain supporters.

PA

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