Bercow's last orders: farewell to the voice of the UK Parliament
Gary Parkinson

UK politics loses a distinctive voice today with the retirement of John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Often irascible and sometimes controversial, the diminutive Bercow has been increasingly prominent as the UK parliament has sailed into relatively uncharted legislative waters.

The Speaker is the Commons' presiding officer and moderator of parliamentary debates, but sat in between the ranks of benches rowdily bellowing at each other across the Commons floor, he or she can sometimes appear more like a cross between a referee and a headteacher. 

Elected as the 157th Speaker in June 2009, Bercow was re-elected unopposed three times after the general elections of 2010, 2015 and 2017. As a former Conservative MP with a high-profile Labour-supporting wife, Bercow perhaps sums up the UK's divisions; during the heat of the Brexit debates, some questioned his impartiality, but others maintain he was merely protecting the sovereignty of parliament against the machinations of government. 

He also became something of a cult figure well beyond Westminster, with social media enjoying his stylised and repeated cries of "order" (to quieten the chamber) - which he used more than 14,000 times across his tenure - and "division, clear the lobby" (to announce a vote). 

Known for eloquence occasionally bordering on garrulousness, Bercow has often favored a florid speaking style. Among those recorded dozens of times in the parliamentary record Hansard are "chuntering", "auspices", "alacrity", "mellifluous", "restitution" and "cerebral". 

A new Speaker will be elected on Monday but may only have a day in the chair before the dissolution of parliament ahead of the 12 December general election. While Bercow is expected to become an in-demand lecturer and after-dinner speaker, his successor will have a whole new parliament to deal with - and big shoes to step into. 

(Bercow photo credit: House of Commons via AP)