Channel 4's Alternative Christmas message will be delivered by former Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.
The broadcaster today said Mr Bercow will deliver a "pro-democracy and pro-Parliament message of tolerance and respect" from a classroom at his children’s state secondary school.
Mr Bercow stepped down in October from the bi-partisan role of Speaker after ten years of chairing some of the fiercest and most fractious debates in recent political history and has now been succeeded by Sir Lindsay Hoyle.
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In his address, Mr Bercow says: “It is not an earth-shattering revelation to say I believe in it. I passionately support Parliamentary democracy. For all the criticism and abuse lobbed at MPs, I’m still a cheerleader for them.”
He shares his view that “of late, democracy has come in for a pounding,” talking of how “it’s crucial for everyone to be free to say what they think and for politicians to respond” but stresses “democracy shouldn’t be about decibel levels.”
Referencing the frequent need to raise his voice in his former role, he goes on to say, “an opinion is no more valid because it is expressed more loudly, repeatedly or abusively".
Mr Bercow goes on to say “there are people… who cannot entertain the idea that anyone can honourably hold an opinion which differs from their own".
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As a Remainer, Mr Bercow cites the example of his relationship with his best friend, a Brexiteer, who he says is “not an extremist, a racist or a fascist” and that, despite their differing views, the pair “respect each other as patriots, wanting the best for our country and the world".
In the Alternative Christmas Message, which will be broadcast on Christmas Day at 2.25pm on Channel 4, Mr Bercow also shares his concerns over the role social media has come to play in society, particularly the impact on young people, commenting that while it can be “amazing” it can often “amplify hatred, racism, misogyny and abuse".
The message is an alternative to the Queen's speech, which airs at 3pm on Christmas Day across BBC One, ITV, Sky One, Sky News and audio on BBC Radio 4.
Inspired by his role as chair of the United Kingdom Youth Parliament (2009-2019), the former Speaker credits them with being “an example of respectful debate” adding “they spoke well, respected one another and behaved better than many political campaigners, two, three and four times their age.”
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With 2020 rapidly approaching, Mr Bercow acknowledges “there will be many challenges around the corner, known and unknown” but stresses the importance to “find a way of ensuring the message isn’t drowned out by the noise".
Signing off with a reflection on young people who he says are “the future” and a wish to “re-establish a civility of discourse,” he hopes everyone has a “happy, argument-free and fun-filled Christmas.”
The Alternative Christmas Message was commissioned by Tamsin Dodgson, Commissioning Editor for Entertainment at Channel 4. It is a Rumpus Media production.