British Parliament Chooses Jewish Speaker
There’s a first time for everything!
There’s something of an ironic rule in Britain that in order to advance politically as a Jew, one must belong to the Conservative Party. Witness yesterday’s election of John Bercow, the first Jewish speaker of the House of Commons. What distinguished Bercow most, apart from being a member of the country’s oldest religious minority, is that he is not his predecessor, Michael Martin, who was forced to resign as speaker last month after overseeing one of the most widespread abuses of legislative expenses in British history. Martin was another milestone: he was the first member of parliament to resign the speakership in 300 years. Jews were only formally admitted to parliament in 1858 when Lionel de Rothschild, after three successful elections, was sworn in as M.P. without having to recite the Christian oath previously required. The clause “upon the true faith of a Christian” had blocked Rothschild from being admitted into the chamber. Rothschild was given his earned seat by using the more prosaic phrase “so help me God.”