Archive for the 'Speaker' Category


As if things weren’t complicated enough

Monday, December 3rd, 2018


To add to the current incendiary political mix Bercow is coming under pressure to resign

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

Can he hang on?

When the report on sexual harassment in the Palace of Westminster came out yesterday I thought that Bercow was extremely lucky over the timing.

Everything at the moment is so focused on the critical stages in Britain’s exit from the EU that what in normal times would be a colossal political development was going to get sidelined.

This morning’s newspapers suggest otherwise and my initial view was wrong. Although print circulations are drastically down on the glory days what goes on the front pages of the main national newspapers can have a political impact. That the Times is leading on the report this morning keeps the pot boiling.

Although the report does not mention anybody by name the Speaker does have overall responsibility for all things within the Commons and some of the guarded phrases in the report were clearly pointing at Mr Bercow.

Undoubtedly there is clearly a culture in the Palace of Westminster which needs to be sorted and the question is how that is to be done. This is quite difficult because MPs are not employees in the normal sense of the word. They are there because they have won an election and although there is a recall procedure it is hard to see how that can apply here.

Bercow is no stranger to controversy following his election after his predecessor, Michael Martin, resigned a decade ago. In many ways I think he has done a good job because he’s always been prepared to hold the executive to account and to make the Commons matter. You can see why ministers and those in government might at times be very frustrated with him but his approach has surely been the right one in a parliamentary democracy.

In the next speaker betting Bercow’s deputy, the popular Lindsay Hoyle, is the odds on favourite to replace him. The question is whether there will be a contest.

Bercow’s response to the report could be crucial.

Mike Smithson


Speaker cornered. Time for John Bercow to stand down as Speaker

Sunday, June 24th, 2018

I have a soft spot for John Bercow, located somewhere around my wallet.  Over the years he has been a steady source of income for me as he has survived in office as Speaker, despite the noises off that regularly come from Conservative backwoodsmen harrumphing about his supposed rudeness and perceived unConservativeness.  Despite abundant evidence that only a small minority were willing to put their heads above the parapet, enough Bercowphobes were regularly willing to put money on the proposition that he would be ejected from the Speaker’s chair by given dates to enable me to make a decent income.

I’ve bet on John Bercow seeing out 2018 too. I expect I’ll collect on this bet. Yet here I am, arguing (against my own financial interest) that he should step down now. Why?

I need to start answering that question by explaining why I think John Bercow has been an excellent Speaker to this point. Contrary to popular belief, the Speaker’s role has never been just to be impartial. The Speaker’s role is to ensure that the legislature can effectively hold the executive to account.

John Bercow has consistently sided with the legislature against the executive, never giving it an easy ride. He has allowed Prime Minister’s Questions to expand well beyond the bounds of its original 30 minute duration – something which incidentally has allowed for more backbench voices to be heard in the prime Parliamentary slot. He has been very ready to accept urgent questions from MPs, requiring ministers to explain government policy. 

In short, John Bercow has done his best to make sure that the legislature has been given the fullest role in the governance of the country. In this regard, helped by two hung Parliaments and one tenuous overall majority, he has probably been the most effective Speaker in living memory. Some of his fondly-remembered predecessors were pretty poor at their job: their complaisance with government agendas was completely at odds with their responsibilities.

Unsurprisingly, this Speaker has not been popular with the government, who would much prefer a quiet life.  Both David Cameron and Theresa May have allowed rumours of their frustration with the Speaker to percolate into the wider public domain.  David Cameron was not above channelling animal spirits on the backbenches into frustration with the Speaker as a means of deflecting the awkward squad onto another target, in the same way that you might throw a stick for a highly strung Alsatian before it decided that it wanted to savage you.  The Speaker has been a harmless safety valve for that nervous energy.

So, why do I think John Bercow should step down now?  In short, he has reached the point on two fronts – the toxic culture of politics and Brexit – where he has become part of the problem. 

The usual suspects will be fixating about Brexit.  The Speaker is entitled to his personal views on the subject.  He was after all, like every other MP, originally elected on a political program.  Brexit, however, is unusually controversial even by the standards of most political topics.  And the government has just conceded, as part of the most controversial provision of the most controversial bill in years, that it will be for the Speaker to determine whether a motion when it is introduced by the Government under the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is or is not in fact cast in neutral terms and hence whether the motion is or is not amendable. 

The compromise is opaque, the passions on both sides run high.  Different views have already been expressed about the scope of the Speaker’s powers.  The Speaker’s decision will be final and effectively unchallengeable.  There is a serious risk that Brexit will get even more divisive as one side or the other concludes that Parliamentary procedure has been used to deal a stab in the back.

Against this background, some Leavers have the concern that the Speaker will not be able to put aside his pungently-expressed personal views when exercising his powers.  Putting a “bollocks to Brexit” sticker on his car is like catnip to a group who are already apt to see vast conspiracies lurking round every corner.  It was gratuitous.  It was, it can now be seen with the benefit of hindsight, very ill-judged.

Caesar divorced his wife because she had to be above suspicion.  The House of Commons is entitled to have a Speaker who is above suspicion, particularly on such a highly charged subject.  John Bercow is not capable of being that man. 

British politics has a still bigger and more deeply rooted problem than Brexit: personal abuse of power. It is becoming increasingly apparent that politics has far too many people who feel able to take advantage of subordinates: see here and here for further depressing details.This is not confined to Westminster.

Only this week, an MSP was recommended for suspension for harassment and a Welsh Assembly report found that over a quarter of respondents had experienced inappropriate behaviour and over 30% had observed inappropriate behaviour. This is an endemic problem that urgently needs addressing.

As the legislature’s figurehead, the Speaker should be leading the charge to address this. Instead, he has been accused of bullying behaviour from several sources. He strongly denies the claims and he has to date successfully fought it even being investigated, benefiting from the casting vote of Sir Christopher Chope (more recently of infamy over the upskirting bill) blocking an inquiry.

It transpires that the Speaker had previously nominated Sir Christopher for his knighthood. Fairly or unfairly, it all looks a bit too cosy. Because John Bercow is at the centre of unresolved allegations, he cannot be the change that British politics urgently needs. Worse, that change cannot happen until he goes.

Speaker Bercow promised on his election that he would step down after nine years in office. He has evidently repented of that commitment but he should keep it. John Bercow has been a great Speaker. He should go now before he gets in the way of his role.

Alastair Meeks


This looks like a spectacular bust up between the SNP and the Speaker but it does look staged

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018



From bollocks to Brexit to bollocks to Bercow?

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

The Speaker seems determined to annoy the Leavers and with crucial votes on Brexit coming up that seems unwise.

Former Monday Club member John Bercow has a history of needlessly antagonising people with his words & actions and I fear that his bumper sticker will rightly annoy Leavers especially with crucial Brexit votes scheduled for June in the House of Commons.

A Speaker needs to be seen to be fair and impartial and the fear among Leavers will be with close votes due on Brexit the Speaker’s personal views on Brexit might impede his judgment. As an innovative Speaker he might choose to ignore or adapt Speaker Denison’s rule, which could have the potential to trigger an early general election especially if the Government lost a key Brexit vote.

So Leavers might see this as an opportunity and the perfect motive to remove John Bercow, the fact we are coming up to the time John Bercow originally planned to stand down from the Speakership should help the plotters.

Quite frankly you can’t see Lindsay Hoyle, Bercow’s likely replacement, pulling shenanigans like this. Speaker Bercow only needs to lose the support of a significant minority of MPs to see his position become untenable, his actions are increasing the chances of his ousting this summer.




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

Tuesday, 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


If Bercow does stand down then Lindsay Hoyle, surely, will be his successor

Thursday, May 10th, 2018

He’s a 66% chance on Betfair

With John Bercow attending the funeral of ex-speaker, Michael Martin, it was down to deputy, Lindsay Hoyle to handle yesterday’s PMQs and the above clip shows what a positive reception he got.

While part of this is down to how the incumbent is viewed by some MPs a lot of it was recognition that Hoyle is very good at handling the business of the House – something that’s recognised by all parties. Many observed that PMQs seem to run more smoothly.

Whether there will be a vacancy I don’t know. Bercow is certainly under some pressure but whether it will lead to an early exit time will tell.

In many ways Bercow has been a good speaker always ready to take the side of the House against the executive. Given the Tories are in power that of itself is enough to earn some opposition from the blue team.

Betfair and other bookies have a market up on his successor. At the moment I would not look beyond Hoyle.

Mike Smithson


Betting on who will the the next Speaker of the House of Commons

Sunday, March 11th, 2018

Laying Jacob Rees-Mogg as next Speaker is my strategy

Following the allegations against Speaker Bercow the Tory MP James Duddridge has helpfully reminded us that when John Bercow was campaigning to be Speaker back in 2009 Bercow promised to stand down by June 2018.  But I’m not expecting John Bercow to honour this promise.

It is reported that Mrs May is ‘concerned’ over John Bercow bullying allegations, which could add further pressure on Bercow so I thought I’d look at the next Speaker market, alas there appears to be no Bercow exit date markets available.

The Paddy Power market below is probably right in having Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle as favourite, he regularly wins praise from all sides of the House when he steps in for John Bercow.

Jacob Rees-Mogg is second favourite, I can see why people think he’d make a good Speaker however I’ll be laying him for the following reasons

I) His focus might be on another job, one that is substantially more influential than Speaker.

II) His socially conservative/Catholic views will be unpalatable to many in the Commons, it is fair to say that Parliament is much more socially liberal than Jacob Rees-Mogg. I suspect Parliamentarians will not want the country to think Parliament is reactionary so that will stop Rees-Mogg becoming Speaker.

III) His views on Brexit might be unpalatable for the vast majority of Parliament that don’t get tumescent over a Hard Brexit that the likes of Rees-Mogg do which again will be a hindrance to his chances of becoming Speaker.

Like the Tory leadership market the next Speaker market is one where I’m fairly confident in betting on who it won’t be rather than who it will be.

(As an aside Paddy Power need to update their market, several of the candidates listed are no longer MPs.) There’s also a Betfair market up on the next Speaker but there’s poor liquidity in that market at the moment.


P.S. – The Sunday Times are reporting ‘Harriet Harman is preparing to launch a campaign to become Speaker of the House of Commons as John Bercow faces a fresh bid to oust him. The former Labour deputy leader has told friends she is “prepared to throw her hat into the ring” after bullying allegations were raised against Bercow.’