MPs vote to replace Speaker John Bercow today

Monday 4th November 2019
John Bercow

Today MPs will elect the new Speaker of the House of Commons, replacing John Bercow who has filled the role for the past 10 years.

While the decision on who will arbitrate in the lower chamber is an important one, rarely has this election commanded such attention.

The reason for the interest this time around is that Bercow has not only been a figurehead in umpiring the rowdy House of Commons chaos, but many have suggested that his interpretation of the procedural law of parliament has favoured Remain policies during these chaotic Brexit times.

The Speaker, by their very nature, has to be seen to be neutral and manage the affairs of parliament in a fair and orderly fashion. However, it is also inevitable that by having the last word on what motions will be debated, and what amendments will be allowed, there is a lot of power in whoever takes this role.

It is certainly not a role for the faint-hearted, and it is useful to have a bellowing baritone to call “order” to the chaos that inevitably occurs, although the famous Betty Boothroyd matched Bercow’s voice, so gender is no pre-requisite for this position.

Bercow will go down in history as a controversial figure, but one that has highlighted the importance, grandeur and gravitas of the role and his will be very difficult shoes to fill.

He made no secret of the fact that he was not a eurosceptic, and while he would argue that his decisions were based in law, not opinion, MPs today are sure to vote for his replacement bearing in mind where they stand on the Brexit issue.

It is indeed something of a poisoned chalice to be occupying this role in the coming months, and will require a calm and focused temperament. It is also worth noting that the next Speaker, will not only become the focus of media scrutiny, something which barely existed before Bercow, but will find themselves in a very lonely and often isolated position in the House of Commons.

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