With just eight days to go before the UK is due to leave the European Union, the Speaker of the House of Commons told the 200-strong gathering that public engagement is higher than ever.
During a lecture entitled “An Audience with the Rt. Hon John Bercow”, the Speaker said arguments over Brexit had renewed interest in parliamentary processes, their worth and the role of MPs.
And he urged anyone interested in a career in politics to get the best education they can, pursue a career, join a political party or pressure group - before even considering standing for Parliament.
“Wherever you go, whether it be down the pub, at the dinner table, standing at the school gate or in conversation with colleagues by the water cooler, there is no doubt people are talking about Brexit, politics and Parliament,”
He told students from the School of Government and Society.
"My office has noticed a sharp increase in correspondence because people are suddenly more interested in Parliament as a result of the Brexit debates the closer we get to the deadline for leaving the EU. Whichever side of the argument you are on, this can only be a good thing that people are expressing their opinions and want to be part of the debate – and I urge you – students of the University of Birmingham – to join the conversation.”
The Speaker also addressed students who are studying the Parliamentary Studies Module, which is being delivered by 24 universities across the UK – including Birmingham – and is taught by university lecturers and clerks from the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
Professor Mark Webber, the university’s Head of the School of Government and Society, said:
“Amidst all the political turbulence thrown up by Brexit, one thing has emerged crystal clear – the heightened significance of Parliament as the fulcrum of national political debate. At the centre of Parliament’s renaissance stands the Speaker of the House of Commons. It is was a real pleasure to welcome John Bercow to the University of Birmingham, to hear his views on contemporary British politics, and to note his encouraging words to our students.”