My understanding is that once a Speaker retires he is barred for life from returning to partisan politics, as per the following quote from the parliament website

"Speakers must be politically impartial. Therefore, on election the new Speaker must resign from their political party and remain separate from political issues even in retirement. However, the Speaker will deal with their constituents' problems like a normal MP."

The important phrase being "even in retirement"


However the current speaker, John Bercow, is now being suggested as a potential leader of an interim government to replace Boris Johnsons Conservative government after a vote of no confidence.


My question is not about whether or not this is a good idea, but simply "is this even possible?"

  • 3
    As I understand it, the neutrality of the speaker is political tradition rather than a formal law, and tradition is currently broken by various sides. If there is a need for a compromise canddidate and he still fits that description, that's no less appropriate than a five-week proroguement.
    – o.m.
    Oct 3, 2019 at 19:22
  • I don't understand how the first and second halves of the question relate to each other. What is partisan about leading a government of national unity? Oct 4, 2019 at 12:20
  • @PeterTaylor "partisan" is my wording and may have been a poor choice in retrospect. the wording from the parliament website is clearer: "on election the new Speaker must resign from their political party and remain separate from political issues even in retirement". How can any PM, even one in charge of a GNU, remain "seperate from political issues"?
    – DMcLaren
    Oct 4, 2019 at 13:33

1 Answer 1


The Speaker staying out of partisan politics after retirement is a political convention, not a legal obligation.

Furthermore, "partisan politics" refers primarily to membership of a political party. Ex-speakers have expressed their views on the issues of the day from the crossbenches in the House of Lords. For example, Betty Boothroyd, who was Speaker in the 1990s, made headlines earlier this year for coming out in favour of a People's Vote.

As for an ex-Speaker forming a government, that would be highly unusual (but then again, what hasn't been lately?), but if the Commons votes in favour of a Bercow-led government, then in theory, there is nothing to stop it.

  • The parliament website i quoted doesn't say "it is tradition" for a speaker to resign and remain seperate from political issues, it says that a Speaker "must" resign and remain seperate. Am I simply reading it too literally then?
    – DMcLaren
    Oct 4, 2019 at 13:35
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    I think you probably are reading it too literally. There isn't, at least not insofar as I'm aware, any law or Parliamentary rule to formally require this, but rather an unwritten expectation.
    – Joe C
    Oct 4, 2019 at 19:17

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