h1

The Buckingham constituency where there must be a high chance of a by-election within 18 months

May 15th, 2018

There’s not been a “normal” election here since GE2005

One of the intriguing facets of the current speculation over the Speaker, John Bercow, is that there could be a by-election within the next year and a half in the Buckingham parliamentary constituency.

There were reports at the weekend that Mr Bercow has indicated to friends that he plans to stand down in 2019 though there could be something earlier if the pressure on him continues. If he does step aside he’ll almost certainly quit as an MP and would probably be elevated to the Lords.

The normal convention which is honoured by the main parties is that Speakers are not challenged when they stand for re-election in their own constituencies. So at GE2010, Bercow’s first general election as Speaker, Labour and the Lib Dems did not put up candidates although Nigel Farage challenged him as did a prominent pro-EU former Conservative MEP, John Stevens. Bercow won easily but Stevens beat Farage for second place and the former leader of UKIP only picked up 17% of the vote.

That election will be remembered for the plane crash that Nigel Farage was in while flying in a light plane over the constituency on election day itself. My understanding is that quite a few Tory activists were helping on the Farage campaign while some Lib Dems were supporting Stevens.

The fact that it has been held by the Speaker for so long is that there are no previous elections for us to make comparisons with. At GE2005, with different boundaries, Bercow stood as a Tory and got 57% of the vote.

At GE1966 the seat was won for Labour by the controversial former media magnate Robert Maxwell. He lost it to the Tories at GE1970.

A 2018/2019 by-election would likely be a battle between the Tories and the Lib Dems who would fancy their chances of putting up a challenge in a seat that went Remain at the referendum. No doubt both parties have already got contingency plans for fighting such an election.

Mike Smithson