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Bad form to blame the ref, John Bercow tells critics

PICTURE: CNN

JOHN BERCOW has dismissed ‘downmarket attacks on parliament’ and told Brexiteers who accuse him of bias it is ‘bad form to blame the referee’ if you are losing a match.

The Commons speaker, who is to step down on October 31, said some of the abuse directed at parliament and parliamentarians had been ‘low-grade and vulgar to the extreme’.

He said he was ‘entirely unmoved’ by the criticism, including a claim from attorney general Geoffrey Cox that parliament was a ‘disgrace’ for repeatedly failing to vote for Theresa May’s departure deal.

‘Some of the more downmarket attacks are unworthy, they don’t amount to a row of beans and I’m not intimidated by them,’ he said.

Mr Bercow (pictured) has been accused of favouritism for allowing votes on legislation such as the Benn Act, which requires Boris Johnson to ask for another Brexit delay if he fails to seal a deal.

But he told US broadcaster CNN: ‘I wouldn’t say I’m a Remainer enabler. I would say I’m an enabler of all colleagues who want to express their different points of view.

‘I thought the Brexiteers were in favour of taking back control, of parliament being in the driving seat? Well, they can’t have it both ways.’

Mr Bercow called the Benn Act, which Mr Johnson has labelled the ‘surrender bill’, ‘the most logical consequence if a deal isn’t agreed’.

Meanwhile, the speaker has been described as a ‘playground bully’ who insults and demeans his colleagues, by a Tory MP who is running to replace him.

Shailesh Vara spoke at a hustings event attended by the nine candidates vying for the job, also including Labour veteran Harriet Harman and Tory Sir Edward Leigh.

Mr Bercow had not been impartial, Mr Vara said, adding: ‘Frankly speaking, I think he’s tarnished the role of the speaker.’

Ms Harman said the speaker should set aside their views but must also be the ‘champion of parliament in our parliamentary democracy’. MPs will choose their preferred candidate on November 4.