John Bercow has abandoned plans to announce his resignation as Commons Speaker later this month after being persuaded to stay on by anti-Brexit Tory MPs, friends told The Mail on Sunday.
Until last week’s decision by European Union leaders to allow Brexit to be delayed until the end of October, Mr Bercow had intended to make a statement to the Commons on April 23 declaring that he was finally making way for a successor after ten years in the job.
But he is understood to have now ‘ripped up’ the statement after coming under ‘huge pressure’ to stay put from pro-Remain MPs.
The plan will be greeted with dismay by Downing Street, which has been engaged in running battles with Mr Bercow over Theresa May’s thwarted Brexit deal.
John Bercow has abandoned plans to announce his resignation as Commons Speaker, it has been claimed
The Speaker has infuriated No 10 by calling unhelpful amendments and trying to block MPs from voting on her deal more than once.
And pro-Brexit MPs will interpret it as part of a plot to stop the UK from ever leaving the EU.
It comes as Mrs May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn prepare for further talks in the coming days to try to assemble support for Mrs May’s deal – with Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay leading cross-party working groups on issues such as environmental protection and consumer rights.
A source close to Mr Bercow said that the Speaker had ‘listened closely’ to requests from Conservative MPs including Dominic Grieve, Oliver Letwin and former Chancellor Ken Clarke, along with Labour MPs Hilary Benn and Yvette Cooper: all five have used parliamentary stratagems to either soften or overturn Brexit.
This newspaper revealed in January that Mr Grieve had secretly met Mr Bercow in his grace-and-favour Commons apartment the day before the Speaker tore up the rule book to allow the former Attorney General to table an amendment which led to the Commons wresting control of Brexit from the Prime Minister.
Pro-Brexit MPs accused Mr Bercow of ignoring centuries of convention, overriding the advice of his officials and ignoring his duty to be impartial by mounting a ‘stitch-up’ over the amendment.
A source close to Mr Bercow said that the Speaker had ‘listened closely’ to requests from Conservative MPs including Dominic Grieve, Oliver Letwin (right)and former Chancellor Ken Clarke (left)
The source said: ‘The MPs have put him under huge pressure not to leave the Chair until Brexit is sorted. He is now unlikely to give any hint of his going until after the summer recess at the earliest – and may well wait to see if the new October 31 deadline is met before hanging up his boots.
‘Ken Clarke – who John listens to more than any other MP – was a particularly decisive voice, telling him that it was his duty to stay.’
Pictured: Conservative MP Dominic Grieve
Mr Bercow’s ‘sit-in’ is likely to lead to moves by pro-Brexit MPs to try to oust him through a no-confidence motion.
The main contenders to succeed Mr Bercow are deputy speakers Lindsay Hoyle and Dame Eleanor Laing, and Labour’s former deputy leader Harriet Harman.
It also means he will have to delay a lucrative speaking tour of America which he had planned to undertake over the summer.
EU leaders agreed during Wednesday’s late-night Brussels summit that the UK would remain a member of the EU until October 31, but with the option to leave earlier if Mrs May can secure Commons support for her deal.
It means that the ‘cliff-edge’ no deal scenario is off the table until Halloween.
A Downing Street source said yesterday that reports that Labour frontbenchers Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey had clashed openly during the Brexit talks were ‘categorically untrue’.
The source said: ‘These talks have been constructive and serious – and both sides want to see further progress over the Easter recess. If we can keep up the pace of negotiations, we can get a deal over the line and avoid participating in the European Parliamentary elections.’
A spokesman for the Speaker’s Office said: ‘The Speaker was elected by the House in 2017 for the course of the Parliament. In the event he has anything to say on his future plans, he will make an announcement to the House first.’
- A poll published yesterday showed the Tories falling seven points behind Labour, their lowest level in five years.
The Opinium survey put Labour on 36, the Tories on 29 and the Lib Dems on eight.
Rees-Mogg's sister tells Jacob: You stole nanny!... as she describes Theresa May as the worst Tory PM ever
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New loyalties: Annunziata Rees-Mogg at the launch of the Brexit Party's European election campaign
By Glen Owen, Political Editor for the Mail on Sunday
She is the loyal family retainer who nurtured both Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg and his sister Annunziata to adulthood – and beyond.
But now Westminster’s most famous nanny – 77-year-old Veronica Crook – is at the centre of a ‘tug of love’ between the siblings after Ms Rees-Mogg complained that Jacob, 49, had ‘stolen’ her for his own family.
Ms Rees-Mogg, 40 – a former parliamentary candidate under David Cameron – burst back on to the political scene on Friday when she appeared at the launch of Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party, announcing that she was quitting the Tories to become one of Mr Farage’s 70 candidates standing in the European elections.
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday to mark her return to politics, the former journalist for the Daily Telegraph savages Theresa May as ‘the worst Prime Minister in the Conservative Party’s history’, slates her former party for trying to ‘de-toff’ her name to ‘Nancy Mogg’ – and bemoans that she has lost Ms Crook to Jacob.
Ms Crook, who has spent 53 years as the Rees-Mogg family nanny, has accompanied Jacob on the campaign trail during elections and now helps to look after the six children he has with wife Helena.
She was splashed across the newspapers last year when she rushed to confront a group of class-war protesters as they ambushed Jacob and his young family outside their Central London home.
Family bonds: Jacob Rees-Mogg, aged four, with family nanny Veronica Crook in the 1970s, left, and, right, aged 12 with younger sister Annunziata
Jacob’s response to his sister’s defection from his party was to say gently that Mr Farage was ‘fortunate to have such a high-calibre candidate’ while Ms Rees-Mogg speaks with affection about her highly protective older brother.
‘Jacob was a fantastic big brother,’ says Ms Rees-Mogg, who also has three other siblings. ‘He would include me in play dates with his contemporaries, even though there is a ten-year age gap – I was always part of the team.
‘He always looked out for me, treating me as a more grown-up person than necessarily I was. He also taught me algebra long before it came into the school curriculum.’
Only ‘nannygate’ threatens to come between them. Ms Rees-Mogg, who like her brother speaks Edwardian-era English, says: ‘Nanny will, for the rest of her days, be my nanny as well as his. But he has just stolen her, which is very unfair! All of us grew up with Nanny in the house and she was a huge influence on all of us.’ Last night, Jacob responded teasingly, saying: ‘I plead guilty to stealing Nanny but, in mitigation, I did have first call as I had children before my sister did.’
Ms Rees-Mogg – who now lives in Lincolnshire with her husband Matthew Glanville, a management consultant, and daughters Isadora, eight, and Molly, one – fought the Somerton and Frome seat for the Tories at the 2010 election.
Her selection as an ‘A’ list candidate led to an astonishing row about her upper-crust moniker after The Mail on Sunday revealed that she had been infuriated by a suggestion from Mr Cameron that she should ‘widen her appeal’ by ‘de-toffing’ her name to ‘Nancy Mogg’. She flatly refused. She will not face a similar demand from Mr Farage, who told this newspaper this weekend: ‘We are delighted to have Annunziata as she is, unlike that Tory attempt to be lowlier than thou. People in the UK don’t like fakes – and Annunziata is in no way a fake.’
Ms Rees-Mogg still bridles at Mr Cameron’s suggestion, saying: ‘My name has professionally and personally always been Annunziata Rees-Mogg and I am not going to change it.’ But she saves her strongest words for Mr Cameron’s successor in Downing Street: it was Mrs May’s failure to deliver Brexit, and the ‘humiliating’ extension until the end of October – leading to the likelihood of the UK fighting European Parliament elections next month – which persuaded Ms Rees-Mogg to return to the political frontline.
‘Theresa May has proven to be quite possibly the worse Prime Minister in the Conservative Party’s history,’ she said.
‘She has not only betrayed her party, she has betrayed the referendum result and she has betrayed her manifesto. She has been no good at all at negotiating. It is tragic that such a successful and historic party has been brought to its knees by one woman – who was never selected by its membership in the first place.’
Ms Rees-Mogg contacted Mr Farage through ‘mutual acquaintances’. She said: ‘I have a lot of long-standing Eurosceptic friends, I’ve been in that world for at least 15 or more years and it was becoming increasingly apparent that I couldn’t stand by and watch the British people being let down so strongly by an appalling leadership.
‘One thing after another made me more and more upset with what was going on.
‘I made it clear that I was considering it, and Nigel then suggested that I could join his party.’
She said that Jacob, the powerful chairman of the pro-Brexit European Research Group of Tory MPs, ‘understood completely’ why she had left the Conservatives.
‘He isn’t of the view it would be the best way for him to achieve Brexit, but he understands why I think it is for me, and all either Jacob or I want is to restore faith in democracy and to leave the European Union as was promised to the electorate.’
Does she agree with her brother that Boris Johnson would be the best candidate to succeed Mrs May as Tory leader?
‘Jacob is backing Boris and that’s his choice. It is for the Conservative Party to decide, not for outsiders like me to tell them who would be the best option. In my view it has to be a Leaver, but one they can rally round.’
Ms Rees-Mogg, whose late father was former Times editor William Rees-Mogg, dodges the question about whether she would return to the party if Mr Johnson became leader, saying: ‘Once you’ve left a club I don’t think that you are always welcomed back. Events change, people change, circumstances change. I am not going to predict the future, for now I am fighting for Brexit, fighting for the Brexit Party and focusing on that.
‘I would still call myself a Tory – I just can’t be part of Theresa May’s Conservative Party.’
Leadership rivals target ex-soldiers with 'dirty tricks'
By Harry Cole, Deputy Political Editor for the Mail on Sunday
Tory Whips were at the centre of a growing dirty tricks storm last night after it emerged that a second former Army officer tipped for party leadership is having his past mysteriously probed.
On Thursday, war hero turned Plymouth MP Johnny Mercer took to social media to accuse an anonymous Tory enforcer of attempting to ‘dig up dirt’ about his military career. The accused is understood to be Deputy Chief Whip Chris Pincher.
Now The Mail on Sunday has learnt that similar enquiries have been made to former Army colleagues of Tory MP Tom Tugendhat – who served in the Intelligence Corps – who last week ruled out a tilt at No 10.
On Thursday, war hero turned Plymouth MP Johnny Mercer (pictured) took to social media to accuse an anonymous Tory enforcer of attempting to ‘dig up dirt’ about his military career
A source said: ‘They’re trawling through old friends who unsurprisingly reported back.’
It is understood that Mr Mercer angrily confronted Theresa May’s Chief Whip Julian Smith on the phone on Friday night, urging him to root out any such behaviour. But Downing Street insiders ridiculed the idea that they were behind the hunt. Instead, they heaped blame on the fevered leadership jostling that is currently tearing through the top of the Conservative Party, suggesting Mr Mercer was planning to run to replace Mrs May.
One Minister, who is a former Whip, said: ‘I never ever heard of this sort of thing being contemplated let alone being done.
‘It is much more likely to be a rival to Mercer posing as the Whips’ Office.
‘There is no way they would have the time or ability.’ And a serving Tory Whip told this newspaper: ‘We have bigger problems than Johnny Mercer.’
But hitting back, Mr Mercer – who did three tours of Afghanistan – told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The Chief Whip agrees with me that this behaviour is unacceptable, that he is the Government’s Chief Whip, and that the behaviour of the Whips’ Office is his responsibility.
Tom Tugendhat – who served in the Intelligence Corps
‘I have left him in no doubt that I expect this individual to have the integrity to come forward of his own accord.’
He added: ‘I am actually pleased this has happened to me. I am tired of seeing colleagues treated in this way, who when I ask to intervene seem oddly fearful of the Whips’ Office and ask me not to.
‘So I’m pleased I have this opportunity to put a firm marker in the sand that this sort of behaviour is not acceptable in a modern Conservative Party.
‘Parliament is in need of serious reform. I can’t just keep saying that and not call it out when this sort of thing happens.’
Mr Mercer also denied he was eyeing up a push for the top job, saying: ‘No 10’s idea I am running a leadership campaign is a joke. I must be the only Tory MP who hasn’t actually asked a single colleague to vote for them.
‘We’ve got a national crisis to sort out; the public do not look fondly on those more preoccupied with their personal ambitions at this time.’
The row came as unsubstantiated rumours circulated in Westminster that one major Cabinet frontrunner was having an affair.
However, allies of the Minister say the claims pushed by MPs were ‘nonsense’.