Academics praise former student Bercow

ACADEMICS at Essex University have been recalling the time they spent teaching John Bercow MP, who yesterday served his first day as the newly-elected Speaker of the House of Commons.

Roddy Ashworth

ACADEMICS at Essex University have been recalling the time they spent teaching John Bercow MP, who yesterday served his first day as the newly-elected Speaker of the House of Commons.

Mr Bercow studied politics at the Wivenhoe Park campus and graduated with a First Class BA Honours Degree in 1985.

While at Essex his politics were set against the traditional left-wing values with which the university was associated, most strongly in the 1960s but also throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Yesterday, Professor Anthony King, who is also a journalist and a BBC commentator, said: “When he was a student here, he was very right-wing, pretty stroppy, and very good.

“He was an outstanding student, who richly deserved the first-class degree that he got.”

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Another academic who taught him at Essex, Professor Michael Freeman from the Department of Government, said: “I also remember John Bercow well - he was the kind of student it is difficult to forget.

“I completely endorse Tony King's comment. John's politics at that time were far removed both from my own and from those of most of his classmates.

“But he was very bright.

“I think he annoyed some of his classmates with his controversial views, a little over-confidently expressed, but, as his class teacher, I appreciated the way he livened up classes.

“Classes with John Bercow were never boring.”

And Professor Emil Kirchner added: “I remember Bercow distinctly being very much in the Thatcherism mould at the time.

“Although I tried to teach him about the 'virtues' of European Union integration, I wasn't surprised that he became 'Euro-sceptic'.

“However, he was an intelligent student and very much deserved getting a 1st degree."

From 1986 to 1987, Mr Bercow served as National Chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students, and in 1987 he was appointed by Norman Tebbit as Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Collegiate Forum to head the campaign for student support in the run-up to the 1987 general election.

He became a Conservative councillor in the London Borough of Lambeth in 1986 and was deputy leader of the 21 strong Conservative Opposition Group.

At the time he was the youngest deputy group leader in the country. He stood as Conservative candidate in Motherwell South in 1987 and for Bristol South in 1992.

He was elected as Member of Parliament for Buckingham in May 1997. He has worked across a range of areas including Education and Employment, Home Affairs, Work and Pensions and International Development.

Mr Bercow was elected as Speaker of the House on Monday on a platform of radical reform, declaring himself the “clean break candidate”.

He marked his first day in the job by not only discarding the traditional wig and tights worn by many of his predecessors but also his allegiance to the Conservatives.