State Opening of Parliament
The State Opening of Parliament is an event which formally marks the beginning of a session of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It includes a speech from the throne known as the Queen's Speech; the State Opening is an elaborate ceremony showcasing British history and contemporary politics to large crowds and television viewers. It takes place in the House of Lords chamber in May or June, but traditionally in November, in front of both Houses of Parliament; the monarch, wearing the Imperial State Crown, reads a speech, prepared by his or her government outlining its plans for that parliamentary year. A State Opening may take place at other times of the year if an election is held early due to a vote of no confidence in the government. In 1974, when two general elections were held, there were two State Openings. Queen Elizabeth II has opened every session of Parliament since her accession, except in 1959 and 1963 when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward respectively; those two sessions were opened by Lords Commissioners, headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, empowered by the Queen.
The Lord Chancellor read the Queen's Speech on those occasions. The State Opening of Parliament is a ceremony loaded with historical ritual and symbolic significance for the governance of the United Kingdom. In one place are assembled the members of all three branches of government, of which the Monarch is the authority and nominal head in each part: the Crown-in-Parliament, constitutes the legislature. Therefore, the State Opening demonstrates the governance of the United Kingdom but the separation of powers; the importance of international relations is represented through the presence in the Chamber of the corps diplomatique. The ceremonial surrounding the opening of parliament can be broken down into several parts: First, the cellars of the Palace of Westminster are searched by the Yeomen of the Guard in order to prevent a modern-day Gunpowder Plot; the Plot of 1605 involved a failed attempt by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill the Protestant King James I and aristocracy.
Since that year, the cellars have been searched, now but not only, for ceremonial purposes. This is supervised by the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Yeomen are paid for their services with a small glass of port wine; the peers assemble in the House of Lords wearing their robes. They are joined by members of the diplomatic corps; the Commons assemble in their own chamber, wearing ordinary day dress, begin the day, as any other, with prayers. The Speaker of the House of Commons makes his usual procession towards the Commons Chamber, accompanied by his Household, the Mace, a police inspector who makes a traditional cry of "Hats off, strangers." This commands those in Central Lobby to remove their hats in deference to the highest-ranking commoner in the realm. Before the monarch departs from Buckingham Palace the Treasurer and Vice-Chamberlain of the Queen's Household deliver ceremonial white staves to her; the Lord Chamberlain, on behalf of the monarch, keeps the hostage MP "prisoner" for the duration of the state opening, by tradition as a surety for the safe return of the monarch.
The hostage MP is well entertained until the successful conclusion of the ceremony, when he or she is released upon the safe return of the Queen. The Vice-Chamberlain's imprisonment is now purely ceremonial; the tradition stems from the time of Charles I, who had a contentious relationship with Parliament and was beheaded in 1649 during the Civil War between the monarchy and Parliament. A copy of Charles I's death warrant is displayed in the robing room used by the monarch as a ceremonial reminder of what can happen to a monarch who attempts to interfere with Parliament. Hostage MPs have included: 2014: Desmond Swayne 2015–16: Kris Hopkins 2017: Chris Heaton-Harris Before the arrival of the sovereign, the Imperial State Crown is carried to the Palace of Westminster in its own State Coach from the Victoria Tower, the Crown is passed by the sovereign's Bargemaster to the Comptroller of the Lord Chamberlain's office, under the watchful eye of the Crown Jeweller, it is carried, along with the Great Sword of State and the Cap of Maintenance, to be displayed in the Royal Gallery.
Brought in this procession in King Edward VII's Town Coach, are two maces, separate from the three used by parliament, to be displayed by the Sergeants-at-Arms in the Royal Procession. The monarch arrives at the Palace of Westminster from Buckingham Palace in a state coach, entering through the Sovereign's Entrance under the Victoria Tower. Members of the armed forces line the procession route from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster; as the national anthem is played, the Royal Standard is hoisted to replace the Union Flag upon the Sovereign's entrance and remains flying whilst she is present
Elizabeth II is Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms. Elizabeth was born in London as the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, she was educated at home, her father acceded to the throne on the abdication of his brother King Edward VIII in 1936, from which time she was the heir presumptive. She began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. In 1947, she married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, a former prince of Greece and Denmark, with whom she has four children: Charles, Prince of Wales; when her father died in February 1952, she became head of the Commonwealth and queen regnant of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ceylon. She has reigned as a constitutional monarch through major political changes, such as devolution in the United Kingdom, Canadian patriation, the decolonisation of Africa. Between 1956 and 1992, the number of her realms varied as territories gained independence and realms, including South Africa and Ceylon, became republics.
Her many historic visits and meetings include a state visit to the Republic of Ireland and visits to or from five popes. Significant events have included her coronation in 1953 and the celebrations of her Silver and Diamond Jubilees in 1977, 2002, 2012 respectively. In 2017, she became the first British monarch to reach a Sapphire Jubilee, she is the longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch as well as the world's longest-reigning queen regnant and female head of state, the oldest and longest-reigning current monarch and the longest-serving current head of state. Elizabeth has faced republican sentiments and press criticism of the royal family, in particular after the breakdown of her children's marriages, her annus horribilis in 1992 and the death in 1997 of her former daughter-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales. However, support for the monarchy has been and remains high, as does her personal popularity. Elizabeth was born at 02:40 on 21 April 1926, during the reign of her paternal grandfather, King George V.
Her father, the Duke of York, was the second son of the King. Her mother, the Duchess of York, was the youngest daughter of Scottish aristocrat the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, she was delivered by Caesarean section at her maternal grandfather's London house: 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair. She was baptised by the Anglican Archbishop of York, Cosmo Gordon Lang, in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace on 29 May, named Elizabeth after her mother, Alexandra after George V's mother, who had died six months earlier, Mary after her paternal grandmother. Called "Lilibet" by her close family, based on what she called herself at first, she was cherished by her grandfather George V, during his serious illness in 1929 her regular visits were credited in the popular press and by biographers with raising his spirits and aiding his recovery. Elizabeth's only sibling, Princess Margaret, was born in 1930; the two princesses were educated at home under the supervision of their mother and their governess, Marion Crawford.
Lessons concentrated on history, language and music. Crawford published a biography of Elizabeth and Margaret's childhood years entitled The Little Princesses in 1950, much to the dismay of the royal family; the book describes Elizabeth's love of horses and dogs, her orderliness, her attitude of responsibility. Others echoed such observations: Winston Churchill described Elizabeth when she was two as "a character, she has an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant." Her cousin Margaret Rhodes described her as "a jolly little girl, but fundamentally sensible and well-behaved". During her grandfather's reign, Elizabeth was third in the line of succession to the throne, behind her uncle Edward and her father. Although her birth generated public interest, she was not expected to become queen, as Edward was still young. Many people believed he would have children of his own; when her grandfather died in 1936 and her uncle succeeded as Edward VIII, she became second-in-line to the throne, after her father.
That year, Edward abdicated, after his proposed marriage to divorced socialite Wallis Simpson provoked a constitutional crisis. Elizabeth's father became king, she became heir presumptive. If her parents had had a son, she would have lost her position as first-in-line, as her brother would have been heir apparent and above her in the line of succession. Elizabeth received private tuition in constitutional history from Henry Marten, Vice-Provost of Eton College, learned French from a succession of native-speaking governesses. A Girl Guides company, the 1st Buckingham Palace Company, was formed so she could socialise with girls her own age, she was enrolled as a Sea Ranger. In 1939, Elizabeth's parents toured the United States; as in 1927, when her parents had toured Australia and New Zealand, Elizabeth remained in Britain, since her father thought her too young to undertake public tours. Elizabeth "looked tearful", they corresponded and she and her parents made the first royal transatlantic telephone call on 18 May.
In September 1939, Britain entered the Second World War. Lord Hailsham suggested that the two princesses should be evacuated to Canada to avoid the frequent aerial bombing; this was rejected by Elizabeth's mother. I won't leave wit
Constitution of the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom does not have a codified constitution such as other countries tend to have. Instead of such a constitution, certain documents stand to serve as replacements in lieu of one; these texts and their provisions therein are considered to be constitutional, such that the "constitution of the United Kingdom" or "British constitution" may refer to a number of historical and momentous laws and principles like the Acts of Union 1707 and the Acts of Union 1800 which formulate the country's body politic. Thus the term "UK constitution" is sometimes said to refer to an "unwritten" or uncodified constitution; the British constitution draws from four sources: statute law, common law, parliamentary conventions, works of authority. Similar to a constitutional document, it concerns both the relationship between the individual and the state and the functioning of the legislature, the executive, the judiciary. Since the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the concept of parliamentary sovereignty has been the bedrock of the British legislative constitution.
The statutes passed by Parliament are the supreme and final source of law in the UK. It follows that Parliament can change the constitution by passing new statutes through Acts of Parliament. There has been some debate about whether parliamentary sovereignty remained intact in the light of the UK's membership in the European Union, an argument, used by proponents of leaving the EU in the 2016 referendum. Another core constitutional principle, the rule of law, is a phrase, popularized by legal scholar Albert Dicey in his 1885 work Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution, recognized by the British Parliament as a work of authority on the constitution. Acts of Parliament are bills which have received the approval of Parliament – that is, the Monarch, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. On rare occasions, the House of Commons uses the "Parliament Acts" to pass legislation without needing the approval of the House of Lords, it is unheard of in modern times for the Monarch to refuse to assent to a bill, though the possibility was contemplated by George V in relation to the fiercely controversial Government of Ireland Act 1914.
Acts of Parliament are among the most important sources of the constitution. According to the traditional view, Parliament has the power to legislate however it wishes on any subject it wishes. For example, most of the iconic medieval statute known as Magna Carta has been repealed since 1828, despite being regarded as sacrosanct, it has traditionally been the case that the courts are barred from questioning any Act of Parliament, a principle that can be traced back to the medieval period. On the other hand, this principle has not been without its dissidents and critics over the centuries, attitudes among the judiciary in this area may be changing. One consequence of the principle of parliamentary sovereignty is that there is no hierarchy among Acts of Parliament: all parliamentary legislation is, in principle, of equal validity and effectiveness. However, the judgment of Lord Justice Laws in the Thoburn case in 2002 indicated that there may be a special class of "constitutional statutes" such as Magna Carta, the Human Rights Act 1998, the European Communities Act 1972, the Acts of Union and Bill of Rights which have a higher status than other legislation.
This part of his judgment was "obiter" – and, was controversial. It remains to be seen. Treaties do not, on ratification, automatically become incorporated into UK law. Important treaties have been incorporated into domestic law by means of Acts of Parliament; the European Convention on Human Rights, for example, was given "further effect" into domestic law through the preamble of the Human Rights Act 1998. The Treaty of Union of 1707 was important in creating the unitary state which exists today; the treaty was between the governments of England and Scotland and was put into effect by two Acts of Union which were passed by the Parliaments of both nations. The Treaty, along with the subsequent Acts, brought into existence the Kingdom of Great Britain, uniting the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland. Common law legal systems exist in Northern Ireland and in England and Wales, but not in Scotland which has a hybrid system which includes a great deal of Common Law. Court judgments commonly form a source of the constitution: speaking in English Law, judgments of the higher courts form precedents or case law that binds lower courts and judges.
However Scots Law does not accord the same status to precedent, judgments in one legal system do not have a direct effect in the other legal systems. Important court judgments include those in the Case of Proclamations, the Ship money case and Entick v Carrington, all of which imposed limits on the power of the executive. A constitutional precedent applicable to British colonies is Campbell v Hall, which extended those same constitutional limitations to any territory, granted a representative assembly. Many British constitutional conventions are ancient in origin, though others date from within living memory; such conventions, which include the duty of the Monarch to act on the advice of his or her ministers, are not formally enforceable in a court of law. Most are works written b
President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
The President of the Supreme Court is the president of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. The office is equivalent to the now-defunct position of Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary known as the Senior Law Lord, the highest ranking among the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary; the current President is Lady Hale, since 2 October 2017. From 1900 to 1969, when the Lord Chancellor was not present, a former Lord Chancellor would preside at judicial sittings of the House of Lords. If no former Lord Chancellor was present, the most senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary present would preside, seniority being determined by rank in the peerage. In the years following World War II, it became less common for Lord Chancellors to have time to gain judicial experience in office, making it anomalous for former holders of the office to take precedence; as a result, on 22 May 1969, the rules were changed such that if the Lord Chancellor was not present, the most senior Law Lord, by appointment as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary rather than peerage, would preside.
In 1984, the system was amended to provide that judges be appointed as Senior and Second Senior Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, rather than taking the roles by seniority. The purpose of the change was to allow an ailing Lord Diplock to step aside from presiding, yet remain a Law Lord. On 1 October 2009, the judicial functions of the House of Lords were transferred to the new Supreme Court under the provisions of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005; the Senior Law Lord, Lord Phillips, the Second Senior Law Lord became the President and the Deputy President of the new court. The same day, the Queen by warrant established a place for the President of the Supreme Court in the order of precedence after the Lord Speaker. Lord Reid Lord Wilberforce Lord Diplock Lord Fraser Lord Scarman Lord Keith of Kinkel Lord Goff Lord Browne-Wilkinson Lord Bingham Lord Phillips Deputy President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom Senior President of Tribunals Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales Lord President of the Court of Session
House of Commons of the United Kingdom
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the upper house, the House of Lords, it meets in the Palace of Westminster; the full name of the house is the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled. Owing to shortage of space, its office accommodation extends into Portcullis House; the Commons is an elected body consisting of 650 members known as Members of Parliament. Members are elected to represent constituencies by the first-past-the-post system and hold their seats until Parliament is dissolved; the House of Commons of England started to evolve in 14th centuries. It became the House of Commons of Great Britain after the political union with Scotland in 1707, assumed the title of "House of Commons of Great Britain and Ireland" after the political union with Ireland at the start of the 19th century; the "United Kingdom" referred to was the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1800, became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland after the independence of the Irish Free State in 1922.
Accordingly, the House of Commons assumed its current title. Under the Parliament Act 1911, the Lords' power to reject legislation was reduced to a delaying power; the Government is responsible to the House of Commons and the Prime Minister stays in office only as long as she or he retains the confidence of a majority of the Commons. Although it does not formally elect the prime minister, the position of the parties in the House of Commons is of overriding importance. By convention, the prime minister is answerable to, must maintain the support of, the House of Commons. Thus, whenever the office of prime minister falls vacant, the Sovereign appoints the person who has the support of the House, or, most to command the support of the House—normally the leader of the largest party in the Commons, while the leader of the second-largest party becomes the Leader of the Opposition. Since 1963, by convention, the prime minister is always a member of the House of Commons, rather than the House of Lords.
The Commons may indicate its lack of support for the Government by rejecting a motion of confidence or by passing a motion of no confidence. Confidence and no confidence motions are phrased explicitly, for instance: "That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government." Many other motions were until recent decades considered confidence issues though not explicitly phrased as such: in particular, important bills that were part of the Government's agenda. The annual Budget is still considered a matter of confidence; when a Government has lost the confidence of the House of Commons, the prime minister is obliged either to resign, making way for another MP who can command confidence, or to request the monarch to dissolve Parliament, thereby precipitating a general election. Parliament sits for a maximum term of five years. Subject to that limit, the prime minister could choose the timing of the dissolution of parliament, with the permission of the Monarch. However, since the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011, terms are now a fixed five years, an early general election is brought about by a two-thirds majority in favour of a motion for a dissolution, or by a vote of no confidence, not followed within fourteen days by a vote of confidence.
By this second mechanism, the UK's government can change its political composition without an intervening general election. Only four of the eight last Prime Ministers have attained office as the immediate result of a general election; the latter four were Jim Callaghan, John Major, Gordon Brown and the current Prime Minister Theresa May. In such circumstances there may not have been an internal party leadership election, as the new leader may be chosen by acclaim, having no electoral rival. A prime minister will resign after party defeat at an election if unable to lead a coalition, or obtain a confidence and supply arrangement, she or he may resign after a motion of no confidence or for health reasons. In such cases, the premiership goes to, it has become the practice to write the constitution of major UK political parties to provide a set way in which to appoint a new leader. Until 1965, the Conservative Party had no fixed mechanism for this, it fell to the Queen to appoint Harold Macmillan as the new prime minister, after taking the consensus of cabinet ministers.
By convention, ministers are members of the House of House of Lords. A handful have been appointed who were outside Parliament, but in most cases they entered Parliament in a by-election or by receiving a peerage. Exceptions include Peter Mandelson, appointed Secretary of State for Business and Regulatory Reform in October 2008 before his peerage. Since 1902, all prime ministers have been members of the Commons; the new session of Parliament was delayed to await the outcome of his by-election, which happened
Jeremy Bernard Corbyn is a British politician serving as Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition since 2015. Corbyn was first elected Member of Parliament for Islington North in 1983. Ideologically, he identifies himself as a democratic socialist. Born and raised in Wiltshire, Corbyn joined Labour as a teenager. Moving to London, he became a trade union representative. In 1974, he was elected to Haringey Council and became Secretary of Hornsey Constituency Labour Party, until elected as the MP for Islington North in 1983, his activism has included roles in Anti-Fascist Action, the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, advocating for a united Ireland. As a backbench MP, he voted against the Labour whip, including "New Labour" governments under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, he chaired the Stop the War Coalition from 2011 to 2015. Corbyn was elected Labour leader in 2015. Taking the party to the left, he advocated renationalisation of public utilities and the railways, a less interventionist military policy, reversals of austerity cuts to welfare and public services.
After Labour MPs sought to remove him in 2016, he won a second leadership contest. Although critical of the European Union, he supported continued membership in the 2016 referendum. In the 2017 general election, Labour again finished as the second-largest party in parliament, but increased their share of the vote to 40%, resulting in a net gain of 30 seats and a hung parliament. Corbyn has been criticised in relation to allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party and for alleged antisemitic associations prior to becoming leader. Corbyn has apologised and asserted his record of opposing antisemitism and his commitment to rooting it out in the party. Corbyn was brought up in nearby Kington St Michael in Wiltshire, he is the youngest of the four sons of Naomi Loveday, a maths teacher, David Benjamin Corbyn, an electrical engineer and expert in power rectifiers. His brother Piers Corbyn is a physicist and weather forecaster, his parents were Labour Party members and peace campaigners who met in the 1930s at a committee meeting in support of the Spanish Republic at Conway Hall during the Spanish Civil War.
When Corbyn was seven years old, the family moved to Pave Lane in Shropshire, where his father bought Yew Tree Manor, a 17th-century country house, once part of the Duke of Sutherland's Lilleshall estate. Corbyn was educated at Castle House School, an independent preparatory school near Newport, before attending Adams' Grammar School as a day student. While still at school, he became active in The Wrekin constituency Young Socialists, his local Labour Party, the League Against Cruel Sports, he joined the Labour Party at age 16 and achieved two E-grade A-Levels, the lowest-possible passing grade, before leaving school at 18. Corbyn joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1966 whilst at school and became one of its three vice-chairs and subsequently vice-president. After school, Corbyn worked as a reporter for a local newspaper, the Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser. At around the age of 19 he spent two years doing Voluntary Service Overseas in Jamaica as a youth worker and geography teacher.
He subsequently travelled through Latin America in 1969 and 1970, visiting Brazil, Argentina and Chile. Whilst in Brazil he participated in a student demonstration in São Paulo against the Brazilian military government, he attended a May Day march in Santiago, where the atmosphere around Salvador Allende's Popular Unity alliance which swept to power in the Chilean elections of 1970 made an impression on him: " noticed something different from anything I had experienced... What Popular Unity and Allende had done was weld together the folk tradition, the song tradition, the artistic tradition and the intellectual tradition". Returning to the UK in 1971, he worked as an official for the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers. Corbyn began a course in Trade Union Studies at North London Polytechnic but left after a year without a degree after a series of arguments with his tutors over the curriculum, he worked as a trade union organiser for the National Union of Public Employees and Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, where his union was approached by Tony Benn and "encouraged... to produce a blueprint for workers' control of British Leyland".
He was appointed a member of a district health authority and in early 1974, at the age of 24, he was elected to Haringey Council in South Hornsey ward. After boundary changes in 1978 he was re-elected in Harringay ward as councillor, remaining so until 1983; as a delegate from Hornsey to the Labour Party conference in 1978, Corbyn moved a motion calling for dentists to be employed by the NHS rather than private contractors. He spoke in another debate, describing a motion calling for greater support for law and order as "more appropriate to the National Front than to the Labour Party". Corbyn became the local Labour Party's agent and organiser, had responsibility for the 1979 general election campaign in Hornsey. Around this time, he became involved with the London Labour Briefing. Described by The Times in 1981 as "Briefing's founder", The Economist in a 1982 article named Corbyn as "Briefing's general secretary figure", as did a profile on Corbyn compiled by parliamentary biographer Andrew Roth in 2004, which alleges that he joined the editorial board as General Secretary in 1979.
Michael Crick in his 2016 edition of Militant says Corbyn was "a member of the editorial board", as does Lansley and Wolmar's 1989 work, The
John Simon Bercow is a British politician, the Speaker of the House of Commons since June 2009. He concurrently serves as the Member of Parliament for Buckingham. Prior to his election to Speaker, he was a member of the Conservative Party. A former right-winger, he changed his views after becoming an MP and at one time was rumoured to be to defect to the Labour Party. Bercow's election to the Speaker's chair depended on the backing of other parties, was unpopular with many of his former Conservative Party colleagues, he served as a councillor from 1986 to 1990 and unsuccessfully contested parliamentary seats in the 1987 and 1992 general elections. In the 1997 general election, Bercow was elected the MP for Buckingham and promoted to the shadow cabinet in 2001, he held posts in the shadow cabinets of Iain Duncan Michael Howard. In November 2002, he resigned from the shadow cabinet over disputes concerning the Adoption and Children Act but returned under Howard in 2003. In September 2004, Bercow was dismissed after disagreements with Howard.
Following the resignation of Speaker Michael Martin, Bercow announced his intention to stand for the Speakership election on 22 June 2009 and was successful. He remained Speaker and was re-elected in his constituency at the general election on 7 May 2015, he was re-elected as Speaker, when the House sat at the start of the new parliament on 18 May 2015. Following the 2017 general election, Bercow was re-elected, again unopposed, as Speaker, on 13 June 2017, he is the first Speaker since the Second World War to be elected to the post three times. In October 2009, Bercow chaired the United Kingdom Youth Parliament's first annual sitting in the House of Commons, making them the only group except Members of Parliament to sit in the chamber, he has chaired every subsequent sitting and attended every annual conference and supporting Members of Youth Parliament from across the UK. In 2014, Bercow was appointed Chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, in July 2017 he was appointed Chancellor of the University of Essex.
In October 2018, it was reported that Bercow intended to step down as Speaker in the summer of 2019, due to a report on the failure of high-level figures in Parliament to deal adequately with bullying of staff at Westminster and due to allegations of bullying made against him personally. However, it was reported that Bercow planned "to stay as speaker" until the end of parliament in 2022. Bercow was born in Edgware, the son of Brenda and Charles Bercow, a taxi driver, his father was born to his mother converted to Judaism. His paternal grandparents were Jews. Having settled in the UK, the family anglicised its surname from Berkowitz to Bercow. Bercow attended Frith Manor Primary School in Woodside Park, Finchley Manorhill, a large comprehensive school in North Finchley. In his youth, Bercow had been ranked Britain's No. 1 junior tennis player, but came down with bronchial asthma and was unable to pursue a professional career. Bercow graduated with a first-class honours degree in government from the University of Essex in 1985.
Professor Anthony King said "When he was a student here, he was right-wing, pretty stroppy, good. He was an outstanding student."As a young activist, Bercow was a member of the right-wing Conservative Monday Club. He stood as a candidate for the club's national executive in 1981 with a manifesto calling for a programme of "assisted repatriation" of immigrants, became secretary of its immigration and repatriation committee. However, at the age of 20 he left the club, citing the views of many of the club's members as his reason, has since called his participation in the club "utter madness" and dismissed his views from that period as "bone headed". After graduating from the University of Essex, Bercow was elected as the last national chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students, 1986–87; the FCS was broken up by the chairman of the Conservative Party, Norman Tebbit, after one of its members had accused previous Tory PM Harold Macmillan of war crimes in extraditing Cossacks to the Soviet Union.
Bercow attracted the attention of the Conservative leadership, in 1987 he was appointed by 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. After a spell in merchant banking, Bercow joined the lobbying firm Rowland Sallingbury Casey in 1988, becoming a board director within five years. With fellow Conservative Julian Lewis, Bercow ran an advanced speaking and campaigning course for over 10 years, which trained over 600 Conservatives in campaigning and communication techniques, he has lectured in the United States to students of the Leadership Institute. In 1986, Bercow was elected as a Conservative councillor in the London Borough of Lambeth, served for four years representing the Streatham, St Leonard's ward. In 1987, he was appointed the youngest deputy group leader in the United Kingdom. In 1995, Bercow was appointed as a special adviser to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Jonathan Aitken.
After Aitken's resignation to fight a libel action, Bercow served as a special adviser to the Secretary of State for National Heritage, Virginia Bottomley. Bercow was an unsuccessful Conservative candidate in the 1987 general election in Motherwell South, again at the 1992 general election in Bristol South. In 1996 he paid £1,000 to charter a helicopter so that he could attend the selection meetings for two safe Conservative parliamentary seats on the same day – Buckingham and Surrey Heath –