Knock three times*

As I’ve mentioned already, there are lots of contests going on in Parliament at the moment. We elect the Deputy Speakers on 8th June, and the Chairs of Select Committees on the 9th. This is the first time either have been elected I think… not quite sure how the Deputy Speakers got their posts, whether the Speaker appoints them or the parties nominate them after discussing it internally, but this time it’s all the MPs who vote.

The first Deputy has to be from the Opposition, which in effect means Labour, and the other two have to be one Government, one Opposition. And one has to be a woman.

Although it might not sound that exciting, the first Deputy – aka the Chairman of Way and Means – is very influential behind the scenes, chairing committees, and such like. I think they’ll sit on the Backbench Committee we’re setting up too?

We don’t know who all the candidates will be yet, but the frontrunner has got to be my good friend and neighbouring MP, Dawn Primarolo. She’s been an MP for 23 years, a frontbencher for 18 years and in the Government for 13, so she’s decided it’s time to seek a new challenge. As a Treasury minister for best part of a decade she attended Ways and Means committees, so knows how it all works, and she’s popular on both sides of the House. In fact I think some of the Tories of a certain age will rather enjoy being told what to do by her! So far the other candidates I’ve heard about are, on the Labour side, George Howarth, Tom Clarke and Lindsay Hoyle, and on the Tory side, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and Roger Gale.

The Select Committee chair nominations are being published each day. There are only a few in so far, including one from a brand new MP, Neil Parish, the Tory MP for Tiverton and Honiton, who wants to chair the DEFRA committee and, in the declaration of interest that has to accompany the nomination, says his family owns a farm in Somerset. I confess I’d not heard of him, but turns out he’s a former MEP, who was their spokesperson in Europe on agricultural issues, which explains why he’s got some backing. He also says on his website that ‘one of his passions is animal welfare’. I might track him down and ask him about badger culls before I give him my vote.

And yes, I will have to vote for a Tory. The Chairs are divided up between the parties in accordance with the proportion of seats they won at the election (Tories get 12, Labour get 9, Libs get 2), and it’s decided in negotiations beforehand which Party gets which, which have now concluded.

The Tories have held out for some of the big ones: Treasury, Foreign Affairs, Defence, Education, Health, DECC, Defra and a new “Clegg Committee”, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland. I think DCMS is in there too. 

The Tories also get the Public Administration Committee, which was previously chaired by Tony Wright. Iain Liddell-Grainger who is frankly quite bonkers and related to the Queen, has been nominated. I suspect he may prove something of a thorn in the Coalition Government’s side if elected, judging from his recent blog posts.  Quote “Finding their way out of a paper bag is not one of the Liberal Democrats strongest sports” (May 14th 2010). They run his local council. He hates them. And please, what’s with the “excellent pussy” strapline Iain?

The Libs only get International Development (which was chaired by Malcolm Bruce in the last parliament, and he’ll almost certainly get re-elected unopposed) and Justice.

Labour get Home Affairs, Communities and Local Government, Transport, DWP, Public Accounts (which always has to be held by the Opposition Party), Scotland, Environmental Audit, Science and Technology and, er… the other one. BIS? Either we get BIS and they get DCMS, or it’s the other way round.

Some interesting names coming forward, including some very good ex-Ministers, but difficult to predict the outcome. I’ve been asked by several people to nominate them, but as a whip I’m staying out of it.

Update: Margaret Hodge has been nominated for Chair of the Public Accounts committee. I think she’d be very good.

* A song by Dawn. She can sing it to Black Rod.

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  • John  On May 28, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    another great post and as Geoffrey Clifton Brown was my MP when I lived in Ciren the thought of him and Dawn working together is a little strange, speaking of little stranger I totally agree with your assessment of the member for Bridgwater!

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