“There are more hooligans in the House of Commons than at a football match.”Brian Clough
The words of Brian Clough could not be more true, having studied politics and spent so much time watching BBC Parliament that I know the channel number on freeview without a second thought, I have to agree with him entirely. The responsibility to police these hooligans better known as MPs is currently John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, although not for much longer. He has announced he will step down from the chair at the next election or on October 31st whichever comes first. In doing so kicks off a very rare kind of election, the Race for a New Speaker.
The Speaker of the House of Commons is responsible for keeping order within the house and ensure that proceedings and rules are followed. The Speaker is a neutral MP in the house and is meant to ensure that all MPs whatever side of the house they sit on are heard equally. The Speaker also decides upon which amendments to bills will be put forward to MPs to vote on (this has caused controversey with the current Speaker).
The power of the Speaker is considerable should they need to use it and it is at their discretion as to when or when not to act. Other than the Government and Shadow Government, they are the most important MP in the house. And while they once came from a party on being dragged to the chair as is customary they must resign from that party and from that point on must remain forever neutral.
Traditionally there are a few perks to being the Speaker, you are given official robes to wear, an official office within the Houses of Parliament, a peerage (given a seat in the House of Lords) upon resignation and while you remain as Speaker by convention none of the main parties will stand a candidate against you. In theory one could remain in the chair for as long as they wanted (unless the House voted to remove you from the chair.)
What will happen to current Speaker John Bercow upon his resignation is unknown, as it is upon the government to appoint peers and they have made it clear they will not grant him one as in their view he was not neutral and merely disruptive to their efforts to secure the UK’s departure from the European Union. Whether or not John Bercow was a good and neutral speaker is up for individuals to decide.
Like all elections people put themselves forward as candidates and this is no different, any MP can put themselves forward for the election of the next Speaker and it will be up to their fellow MPs to decide whether or not they want them in the chair. As of writing there are a few MPs who have put their names forward for consideration to be the new Speaker, the current Mother of the House (longest serving female MP) Harriet Harman (Labour), Chris Bryant the Labour MP for Rhondda, Pete Wishart of the SNP and Sir Edward Leigh of the Conservatives.
In just over a month’s time there will be a new Speaker sitting in the chair, each of them leave a legacy. What will their’s be?