Archive for the 'Speaker' Category


We shouldn’t look much past Lindsay Hoyle as next Speaker

Saturday, September 28th, 2019

But if there is to be another female Speaker, Eleanor Laing is the better bet

The last few weeks seem to have been filled with as many attempts to defy convention and accepted norms of rules and behaviour within Westminster as possible. There’s a certain irony, therefore, that in the election to replace John Bercow as Speaker, a convention many MPs may feel bound to respect a convention – that the Speakership should alternate between the main parties – which is of recent innovation and which came about primarily by happenstance, albeit a happenstance overlaid by a perceived fairness.

The much older convention was that the Speaker came from the governing party. Far from adhering to the ‘rotation’ principle, Betty Boothroyd was the first Speaker to be elected when his or her party was out of office since 1835 (and even then, Speaker Abercromby’s Whigs held a majority of seats in the Commons despite Peel having just formed a brief minority government). In fact, Abercromby would be the first of a sequence of six Whigs / Liberals who would, between them, occupy the chair for seven decades.

The change in accepted or understood principle presumably came about because the Speakership did alternate on four successive occasions between 1965 and 1983 as a result of each vacancy falling following a change of government. Even in 1992, Boothroyd’s election owed more to her being a much more widely acceptable candidate than Peter Brooke, who had been a serving cabinet minister less than three weeks earlier.

Still, despite Boothroyd being followed by Labour MP Michael Martin in 2000, a belief in rotation as a beneficial principle, if not an iron law, clearly exists. What are we to make of that in the upcoming election to replace John Bercow?

Clearly, Labour MPs start at an advantage and this is reflected in the betting odds with Lindsay Hoyle (evens, Betway) and Harriet Harman (5/2, Ladbrokes) leading the way. The first Tory on the list is another of the Deputy Speakers, Eleanor Laing, in fourth at 20/1 (bet365).

Quite why the odds are as close as they are is a mystery to me. Hoyle is by far the most capable of the field and has demonstrated himself to be a very good Deputy Speaker. I see no reason why he should struggle to gain cross-party support.

Harman, by contrast, is not only a former front-bencher of long standing and without experience in the chair, she remains wedded to gender politics, asserting as part of her campaign that parliament should elect a woman to show that it had ‘changed’. Presumably the election of Boothroyd didn’t do that. But I can’t help but feel that her Boris-like sense of entitlement is something of a hindrance. She assumes both that men – whatever their ability – should step aside because of their sex, and that once it’s agreed that the Speaker should be a woman, it should naturally be her. In fact, if it is to be a woman, Eleanor Laing would be a better choice.

However, the election rules will work against Harman, who I can’t see picking up much support at all among Tory MPs. The system used is similar to the method for the MPs’ rounds of the Tory leadership election: all candidates with less than 5% are eliminated in the first round (or the lowest-scoring, if all receive at least 5%), after which it’s a straight exhaustive ballot apart from that candidates can withdraw even if they win election to the next round.

Of the four Tory aspirants, Edward Leigh, Shailesh Vara and Henry Bellingham are not entirely absurd candidates but it’s hard to see from where they gain even modest support. If they do go out early, that would leave only one Tory – Laing – and several Labour ones. For both that reason and because she’s an experienced Deputy Speaker, she could poll very strongly in the middle rounds. To my mind, 20/1 is worth taking: dynamics within a race can transform the outcome but even if they don’t, there’s a trading bet to be had.

It’s true that Laing would break the ‘convention’ of rotation, although how many Tory MPs consider Bercow – who was largely elected by Labour MPs in the first place – as a legitimate Tory nomination is another matter.

However, for those of us with long memories, this all sounds a bit like the run-up to Labour’s 2007 leadership election, when the speculation was on who might challenge Gordon Brown, which ignored the plain fact that it really didn’t matter: Brown was going to steamroller any opposition. To me, the first question of the contest is ‘why wouldn’t you vote for Lindsay Hoyle?’, to which there are precious few good answers.

The fact that Harman is campaigning primarily on parliament making gestures at such a critical time for parliament and the country works strongly against her. In truth, by glaring omission, it emphasises the need for the person who takes on the role to actually understand it inside out, to have the ability to control the House, and to treat members fairly (and, ideally, respectfully).

It is possible, I suppose, that Hoyle could be caught between Tories backing their own, and Labour MPs making political gestures or falling prey to Rosie Winterton’s overtures (Winterton is both a Deputy Speaker, albeit the most junior one, and also a former Chief Whip with the skills and knowledge that brings). I doubt it though. Evens is a huge price in the circumatances and, in my opinion, anything better than 1/2 is value.

David Herdson


This will be a day long remembered. It has seen the end of Bercow, and will soon see the end of No Deal, I think

Monday, September 9th, 2019

I hope Bercow’s successor is Lindsay Hoyle but in these hyper partisan times who knows what Parliament will do, given the send off in Alex Wickham’s tweet I’m expecting the election to replace Bercow to be teeming with partisanship particularly over Brexit.

You will be all delighted to know that the voting system to elect a new Speaker is the exhaustive ballot system which shares a lot of similarities to the alternative vote system.

Meanwhile is Boris Johnson about to sell out Northern Ireland?



Meet the next Prime Minister. Maybe

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Could this former member of the Monday Club be our next Prime Minister?

John Bercow as Prime Minister seems outlandish even in these interesting times. There’s not enough bandwdith on the information superhighway to list all the reasons why this is a bad idea or why John Bercow is so unsuited to be Prime Minister but given the desperation amongst MPs to stop a No Deal Brexit then something outlandish needs to happen.

Do I think Bercow has the ego to think he could be the man to prevent no deal? Hell yes! Is Bercow prepared to set aside Parliamentary convention? Hell yes, in fact he did just that earlier on this year.

Today’s Sunday Times has the following story

Many years ago someone told me that ‘Napoleon had a Bercow complex’, now that Bercow is involved in a plot to stop a No Deal Brexit then it isn’t hard to see how the conversation turns to him offering himself as himself as the man you need if you want a temporary non partisan (sic) Prime Minister to prevent No Deal.

I can see how that might appeal to MPs who really don’t want to make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister, it could appeal to Corbyn to make someone Prime Minister who really won’t be Prime Minister for long, nor leads or is a member of a political party.

I’ve stated that I consider this a pretty outlandish suggestion, the bookies agree, at the time of writing no bookie has John Bercow listed in the next PM market, but they do have another Arsenal fan, Piers Morgan, at 500/1 but if Bercow is added in this market I’d be very interested, depending on the odds.

I think MPs who respect the referendum result but are implacably opposed to both a No Deal Brexit and a Corbyn Premiership are looking for a ‘Hail Mary’ option Bercow as Prime Minister could well be it. Having one person concurrently holding the job of Speaker and Prime Minister would ensure the smooth running of the government in Parliament, something that hasn’t been happening recently.



Will John Bercow leave his job as Speaker in 2019?

Sunday, April 28th, 2019

This looks like the best way to get a 25% return in eight months.

Earlier on this month I wrote a piece about the plans of Tory Leavers to try and oust John Bercow this week just gone, accurately I predicted they wouldn’t have the numbers to oust Speaker Bercow. 

In that piece I bemoaned there were no Bercow exit markets but thankfully Paddy Power now have a market on whether Speaker Bercow will leave his job in 2019. For me it is a no brainer to back the 1/4 that he will not leave his job in 2019. It is clear Tory leavers do not have the numbers to oust Bercow which makes backing the 1/4 so attractive. As Mike Smithson has regularly observed the ERG appear to be just piss and wind.

The only way I can see this bet doesn’t win is if Bercow stands down if we get a 2019 general election, but if the Parliamentary re-enactment of the Battle of Verdun via Brexit has not concluded then Bercow may well decide to stay on. What has the greater potential to see Bercow depart in 2019 is if the bullying allegations against him escalate further, but I really cannot see either scenario happening.



Next week could see Bercexit if some Tory Leavers have their way

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Tory Leavers might be about to make the same mistake with Bercow that they made with Mrs May last December.

In today’s Times there’s this story

Conservative MPs are to launch a further attempt to prise John Bercow from office amid anger over what they claim is the Speaker’s bias against Brexit.

The backbencher behind the move, who says it has support from the government front bench, warned Mr Bercow yesterday that “enough is enough”.

There have been reports that the Speaker wants to stay in his post beyond the summer if Brexit is not resolved. Crispin Blunt, former chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, is canvassing support among MPs for an early day motion expressing no confidence in Mr Bercow. 

He hopes to table the motion when parliament returns on Tuesday, after the Easter recess. This would not in itself force the Speaker out, but it could embarrass him, especially if it were signed by a large number of MPs. Mr Blunt is hoping to garner sufficient support to make Mr Bercow’s position untenable.

Brexiteers and senior ministers believe that the Speaker is using his position to frustrate attempts to get the prime minister’s Brexit deal through parliament….

…Mr Blunt has written to all Conservative MPs telling them that he will only table the motion if it is supported by a minimum of 100 of the 650 MPs. In his letter Mr Blunt said: “I have support from frontbenchers and expect this to be seen as a house matter.”

I think is a further example of some Leavers focussing on the wrong things and making another huge mistake. Let us assume Bercow is ousted soon, who will replace him?

We’re consistently told by many Leavers that the Commons is dominated Remainers, so it is likely the next Speaker will likely to be someone who backed Remain so we might see another Speaker who is perceived to anti Brexit.

Rather than belittle Bercow on Brexit Crispin Blunt and others really wanted to oust Bercow they might be better off focussing on the bullying allegations swirling around Bercow. Last December the Leavers tried to oust Mrs May as Tory leader and only left her stronger for a year, they could repeat that mistake with Bercow, once again they won’t have the numbers to oust their target.

A few bookies have markets up on who will be Bercow’s successor as Speaker but as far as I can see there’s no markets up on Bercow’s exit date or will Bercow be Speaker on a certain date.

The latter markets have been profitable in the past as critics of Bercow have been all heat and no light. As for the betting on who will be Bercow’s successor I’m quite content with my position on backing Lindsay Hoyle and Harriet Harman.



You can’t blame Bercow for enforcing what is a sensible precedent

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

The real problem is the totally divided Tory Party

The speaker, John Bercow, as you’d expect, gets a lot of stick from the right wing press this morning following his ruling yesterday stopping the tabling of the government motion for a third time.

Sure a consequence of it is that it might make Brexit happening a tad less likely and that might be what Mr Bercow himself  wants. If he did go wrong, I’d suggest, it was not blocking last week’s vote which also fell foul of the precedent.

Most bodies that I’ve sat on or have been associated with over the years have had rules similar to that which Bercow is trying to enforce. Once something has been decided then you can’t go on repeatedly putting it forward within a specific timescale.

The real problem is that the Conservative Party remains totally divided on the issue of Europe a fault line that has existed for several decades. Whoever had been the Tory leader and prime minister at this point was going to find it very difficult securing the agreement of the Commons particularly given the fact that the party is in a minority.

I don’t think that Mrs May is helped by her rigidity and her apparent lack of ability to sell things. But you have to admire her resilience.

In many ways the developments over the past few months on Brexit have totally justified her decision two years ago to seek to increase the party’s majority by calling an early election. She foresaw then that there weren’t the numbers, given the party splits, to get things through the Commons. The only problem was that when it came to voting in June 2017 she lost seats rather than gained them.

Where do we go from here? My guess is that they’ll be trying to find a way of getting it before the House again in a manner that Bercow will accept. It might just be the fact that because Brexit has appeared in jeopardy over the past 24 hours could make a third vote, if it happens, more likely to produce the outcome that Mrs May seeks.

Mike Smithson


Bercow’s ruling adds to the Brexit uncertainty

Monday, March 18th, 2019

It’s looking more like TMay will have to ask for more time

So another day and more uncertainty over what is going to happen over brexit just 11 days away from the March 29th article 50 deadline. The Commons speaker, John Bercow, ruled in the house this afternoon that the government could not bring the deal plan back to the house for a further vote. He was applying the the rule that in any one session The Commons can only make a decision once.

This was very much a surprise and makes it more difficult for Theresa May who had been hoping that she might just get enough MPs to support her deal in vote intended to take place tomorrow. My guess is that some smart wordsmith with be trying to rephrase the motion that’s been rejected twice in a form that has the same effect but is different. It would be then be back in Bercow’s court.

A problem for ministers is that there has been bad blood between the Tories and the Speaker going back to the coalition years.

Unless a procedure fix can be found then the next stage is surely going to be the government having to ask Brussels for an extension to the article 50 period. The problem here is that it is thought that ministers would have to state a reason. The other 27 Nations within the EU are hardly going to grant the request unless they can see what it is for.

Those hoping for another referendum have been heartened by the news and on Betfair it is now a 28% chance that such an event will take place this year.

Mike Smithson


Whatever you think of Bercow it is right that the executive has less control over proceedings of the elected House

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

Like many I’ve often been irritated by John Bercow particularly at the lengthy interjections he likes to make at PMQs which can appear like grandstanding.

    It is said that his approach to the role is anti-Tory, a view I don’t hold. If he appears that way it is down to the fact that for the vast majority of his time in the job the Tories have been in power and inevitably the executive hates anything that impedes their actions.

Basically he is just sticking up for the elected members of the House against a government that gives the impression of being reluctant to recognise that it should be accountable to the elected members.

This has been more the case since TMay entered Number 10 as evidenced by the way she put back the Brexit deal vote last month until today. That move alone more than justifies Bercow’s approach and the way he uses his powers to select amendments and the like.

Sometimes, maybe, he oversteps the mark but I’d prefer that to a Speaker who simply kowtows to what Number 10 wants in many cases cutting out the views of elected MPs.

This is a big moment in Britain’s political history and we mustn’t forget that much of Mrs May’s predicament is self made. She, on the advice apparently of DDavis, called the last election three years early to shore up her small majority and ended up with no majority at all. That inevitably diminished her authority as well as creating an ongoing dilemma for the government when it comes to tight votes.

Arguably, as well, she made a huge mistake in triggering the rigid timetable of Article 50 process before the government had worked out precisely what it wanted and what it was going to do. That wasn’t Bercow’s fault but Number 10`s misjudgement.

Labour for all their protestations cannot moan on the Article 50 timing. Remember that on the day after the referendum in June 2016 Mr Corbyn called for the immediate invoking of Article 50.

Mike Smithson