House of Commons Speaker ‘rehearses’ Trump comments with Reading students
Release Date 07 February 2017
An audience at the University of Reading watched a ‘dress rehearsal’ of House of Commons Speaker the Rt Hon John Bercow MP’s comments on Donald Trump’s proposed address to Parliament.
Three days before the Speaker expressed his opposition to the US President’s planned appearance during a point of order in the Commons on Monday (6 February), he was outlining the same views to students and guests at a university event. Watch a video of the talk here.
The Speaker told the House of Commons that opposing racism and sexism were ‘hugely important considerations’ for MPs. His comments follow criticism of President Trump’s decision to impose a temporary travel ban on people travelling to the US from seven mainly Muslim countries.
Mr Bercow visited the University on Friday 3 February to give a talk to Politics & International Relations undergraduates. As well as discussing issues around Mr Trump’s proposed state visit to the UK, the group talked about constitutional reform, Brexit, and the refurbishment of the Houses of Parliament buildings.
“I was very engaged by the well-informed students. They asked a wide variety of penetrating questions" - John Bercow MP, House of Commons Speaker
Questions on his early political career, parliamentary reform and his relationship with notable Parliamentarians were posed to the MP in Q&A sessions following a presentation to students in the afternoon, and then after a wider talk in the evening.
Mr Bercow said: “I was very engaged by the well-informed students. They asked a wide variety of penetrating questions about the role of the Speaker in the Chamber, about the types of reforms I tried to make, and about how the Speaker combines being an impartial chair with an active local MP.
“I’ve hugely enjoyed my visit to the University of Reading. Studying politics is good because it’s such a key part of society. People might think they’re not interested, but politics does affect people whether they like it or not. The development of the study of politics is tremendously positive.”
A group of Reading students visited Westminster in 2016 to get an insight into how UK policy is made. Mr Bercow was invited to make the return visit by University lecturer Dr Mark Shanahan, a Buckingham constituent of the MP.
After swapping Westminster for Whiteknights, the Speaker conducted his evening talk in conversation with Dr Shanahan and Students’ Union President Ben Cooper.
"I think we proved to be a good test audience for his thoughts, which obviously came to full fruition on Monday.” - Dr Mark Shanahan, lecturer in Politics & International Relations, University of Reading
Dr Shanahan said: “Following recent visits by key speakers including Sir Vince Cable and US Ambassador Matthew Barzun, we were delighted to welcome ‘Mr Speaker’ as our latest political voice.
“Attracting John Bercow here is a demonstration of our approach in the Politics & International Relations department to new ways to teach and engage students. We are breaking the barriers between the politics of books and journals and the realities of practitioners who live and breathe the world we study.
“His talk at the university was pretty much a dress rehearsal of what he said in Parliament - first to students, and then to the evening audience. I think we proved to be a good test audience for his thoughts, which obviously came to full fruition on Monday.”