The Speaker

I have a huge amount of work to get through this evening, so not much time to blog but in view of today’s events, thought I should at least blog quickly on the Speaker’s resignation.
Was first told the news by Sadie of Sadie’s Tavern fame as I was racing on my way to PPS in a Westminster Hall debate. Went into a packed Chamber a bit later for his statement but before doing so I joined other (mostly) Labour colleagues in the Member’s Lobby to applaud Michael Martin as the Speaker’s Procession went by.
I accept that he made the right decision, that there was no way he could stay on. He’s a thoroughly nice and decent man, but it’s difficult to see how he could have steered the Commons through the rocky waters ahead. But even so…. I’m not someone who has much time for the pomp and ceremony of parliamentary tradition, but hounding a Speaker out of office in this way seems like the wrong way to go about things. Someone said to me on Twitter that politics was no place for the sensitive. No, but we should have some respect for the dignity of the office. And some respect for the man too.
Anyway, I’ve already nailed my colours to the mast regarding my support for John Bercow, and although he hasn’t declared his name is certainly being talked about. Martin Salter is on Channel 4 News at the moment, saying that the next Speaker should be ‘a fully-paid up member of the modernising tendency’, ‘dragging this gentlemen’s club kicking and screaming into the 21st century’ – which means Bercow. (A much changed creature since he stood against Dawn Primarolo in Bristol South many years ago.) The difficulty will be in finding Tories to support him! (They seem to be pushing Frank Field…. in which case they’d have the opposite problem!)
It’s generally accepted we can’t have another Labour candidate, given that the past two Speakers have been Labour MPs. Other names in the frame are Sir Alan Beith, Sir George Young, Richard Shepherd (my God!) and someone mentioned David Heath too, although I think it would be wrong to have anyone who is currently serving on the front bench, given that the Speaker should really be someone who can stand above party politics. David Davis has also been on Channel 4 saying ‘this is going to be the most powerful Speaker in history’ – ‘the first Speaker who can actually bang people’s heads together’. Yes, which means it’s no job for a grandee.

As for the connection between this and the MPs’ expenses row. Yes, it’s a distraction but I think it was more a case of people (MPs/ media) scenting blood when the Speaker was wounded, rather than it being deliberately stoked up to distract attention from the Telegraph’s revelations.

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