Bercow: 'The atmosphere in the Commons was the worst in my 22 years here'

John Bercow in the House of Commons. Picture: PAJohn Bercow in the House of Commons. Picture: PA
John Bercow in the House of Commons. Picture: PA
John Bercow pleaded with MPs on all sides to tackle the "toxic" political culture as the fallout continued from Boris Johnson's combative Commons performance.

The Commons Speaker said the House "did itself no credit" in the angry exchanges which followed the Prime Minister's statement last night.

As MPs returned to the Commons today, Mr Bercow said: "There was an atmosphere in the chamber worse than any I've known in my 22 years in the House.

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"On both sides passions were inflamed, angry words uttered, the culture was toxic."

He told them to "lower the decibel level and to try to treat each other as opponents, not as enemies".

Mr Johnson provoked a furious response by telling MPs they should honour the memory of murdered parliamentarian Jo Cox by delivering Brexit.

There was uproar in the Commons as the Prime Minister repeatedly berated MPs, rejected calls to temper his language and said the best way to honour Mrs Cox - an ardent Remainer - was to "get Brexit done".

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nicky Morgan appeared to acknowledge concerns about Mr Johnson's use of language, particularly in the context of threats of violence against politicians.

"But at a time of strong feelings we all need to remind ourselves of the effect of everything we say on those watching us," she tweeted.

And Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said all people "had a responsibility to be mild in our language when we're speaking in this House or outside".

But Tory chairman James Cleverly defended the Prime Minister and said the "deeply uncomfortable" atmosphere in politics was unlikely to be resolved until Brexit was delivered.

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He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that opposition parties preferred to "continue the circular argument around Brexit" rather than put it to bed.

"It is creating a highly-charged and uncomfortable atmosphere.

"The Conservative Government and the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, are trying to resolve this but the Opposition parties are refusing to do so.

"This can be de-escalated, the tempers can be taken out of this. But in order for that to happen, there needs to be a balance on both sides.

"At the moment, I don't feel that opposition parties are genuine about trying to resolve this issue. It seems they would much prefer to continue the circular argument around Brexit rather than work together for a resolution and get it off the agenda."

Jeremy Corbyn will convene the latest meeting of opposition leaders in Parliament today to consider their next moves.

The Government will ask MPs today to agree to a three-day break for the Commons next week while the Tories stage their annual party conference in Manchester.

But amid the angry mood at Westminster, the opposition parties appear unlikely to agree, meaning Mr Johnson could be forced to rearrange his keynote speech due to be held on the final day on Wednesday.