Speaker John Bercow called for 'assisted repatriation' of immigrants
John Bercow, the new Speaker of the House of Commons, called for a programme of “assisted repatriation” of immigrants during his time as a member of a far-right political group, it has emerged.
By Gordon Rayner and John Bingham
Published: 9:00PM BST 26 Jun 2009
Mr Bercow, whose early influences included Enoch Powell, stood for election to the national executive of the Monday Club pressure group on an anti-immigration ticket, despite the fact that he is himself descended from Romanian Jewish immigrants.
In 1981 he produced a personal manifesto which stated that: “The strengthening of our national identity demands a programme of assisted repatriation.”
Although Mr Bercow, then a politics student at Essex University, did not win the nomination, he did become the secretary of the Club's immigration and repatriation committee, which called for “an end to New Commonwealth and Pakistan immigration, a properly financed system of voluntary repatriation, the repeal of the Race Relations Act and the abolition of the Commission for Racial Equality”.
Mr Bercow has since described his membership of the Monday Club as “utter madness” and dismissed his views from that time as “bone headed”.
The Conservative MP has performed such an about-turn in his political views that at one stage there were rumours that he might defect to Labour.
But following his election as Speaker earlier this week, former members of the Monday Club have spoken for the first time about the John Bercow they knew.
Gregory Lauder-Frost, a leading light in the Monday Club's Young Members' Group at the time, said: “When he stood, unsuccessfully, for election to the Club's national executive he did so on a platform of supporting the repatriation of non-white immigrants, and made a speech to that effect which was well received.
“But he wasn't very popular in the Monday Club. He just rubbed people up the wrong way because he was extremely pushy and rather pleased with himself.”
Another former member said: “He was a great admirer of Enoch Powell. He used to read Powell's speeches and regurgitate them word for word, because he has this amazing memory. I always thought at the time that he sounded a bit like Enoch Powell, as if he modelled his voice on him when he made speeches.”
Former students at Essex University recalled him making speeches attacking gays and feminists.
“Essex was a very left-wing university at the time and he was pretty much universally despised,” said one contemporary. “He was always attacking left-wingers, gays and feminists. After one speech he made at the student union one of the feminists walked up to him and poured a pint of beer over his head.”
Mr Bercow left the Monday Club in 1982, saying he found its views “unpalatable”, and concentrated his energies on the Federation of Conservative Students, of which he became chairman at around the time it was producing literature with the slogan “Hang Nelson Mandela”. He has always denied having anything to do with the anti-Mandela leaflets and stickers.
Mr Bercow worked in banking and as a lobbyist before entering parliment as MP for Buckingham in 1997 and gradually moving towards the centre of Conservative politics, which many MPs attribute to his 2003 marriage to the Labour-supporting Sally Illman.
Louise Acton, a former girlfriend of Mr Bercow who is still a close friend, put his changing political views down to maturity.
She said: “He is someone who always wears his heart on his sleeve and says exactly what he thinks. People don't always want to hear the unembellished truth. As for his political views, they have evolved as he has matured, which is to his great credit. Surely everyone is entitled to evolve their views as time goes on?
“I am 100 per cent certain he will make a fantastic speaker, and that he will do everything he can to address the criticisms of him.”
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