As a massive Rugby fan I took the weekend off from the #GE2019 for obvious reasons. Whilst massively disappointed at England losing the final the story of SA captain Siya Kolisi coming from the township to lifting the RWC trophy made it easier to take! Having been in SA for the 1995 RWC and seeing that mandela and Pienaar moment this weekend made the hairs on the back of my neck tingle again.
But Monday morning and it’s back to the grind of another 39 days of this General Election. Sorry to have raised your hope in the title – it’s only the election to replace John Bercow as Speaker that will be finalised today!
I was one of those who backed and supported John into the Chair in 2009. By the time we elected him he had been on quite a journey from his first few years in the Commons as the Ultra Right winger… I think since I left that journey has continued! He was always very good to me and the family, even in the times we have met in the years since I left. In a high profile position like this at a difficult time for the Commons Bercow has certainly become a little like marmite. I am on the side of those who think he has done a good job in the Chamber. Hopefully there will be time to reflect on his time once the dust has settled on this election.
But onto today. Who will replace John? It looks like the favourite is Sir Lindsay Hoyle. But as well know in politics it isn’t alway the favourite that wins!
There is a helpful guide to how this afternoon will work on the BBC Politics pages. At least the system is now a lot more open and transparent with MPs allowed to make their pitch and a proper voting system in place. Reforms were brought in to modernise the process after Betty Boothroyd stood down. And I think they now work well. I did get heavily involved in the selection of the Speaker to replace Betty Boothroyd. I found myself getting somebody onto the ballot paper who I subsequently was pleased got knocked out early so I could vote for the eventual winner – Michael Martin! It was a long story involving Rugby!
Given the profile that John Bercow has brought to the job and the sesntive nature of his decisions in a hung and fractious parliament here is rightly a lot more public interest in who replaces him.
The eight candidates are:
- Chris Bryant – former minister and shadow Commons leader; Labour MP for Rhondda since 2001
- Harriet Harman – former minister and deputy Labour leader; Labour MP since 1982, for Peckham and its successor constituency Camberwell
- Meg Hillier – chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee and former minister; Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch since 2005
- Sir Lindsay Hoyle – elected Labour MP for Chorley in 1997; elected deputy Speaker in 2010
- Dame Eleanor Laing – elected Conservative MP for Epping Forest in 1997; elected deputy Speaker in 2013
- Sir Edward Leigh – Conservative MP for Gainsborough since 1983; former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee
- Shailesh Vara – Conservative MP for North West Cambridgeshire since 2005; former Northern Ireland minister
- Dame Rosie Winterton – elected Labour MP for Doncaster Central in 1997; former Labour chief whip; elected deputy Speaker in 2017
I know 7 of the candidates pretty well and would be torn on who to back out of my top six! Each of Chris, Harriet, Meg, Lindsay, Eleanor and Rosie would bring a different style to the role. It is good to see there are four strong women candidates and all I could happily support. Sir Edward is non starter for me and Shailesh doesn’t have enough impact/ support.
And this was my problem as a politician. I sit here with this list and want to support six of them. I don’t want to let down people who I would call friends like Chris Bryant or Meg Hilier and even Lindsay. So I become extremely indecisive and keep putting off the decision! In the Labour Deputy leadership election in 2007 I had a similar problem. In the end as I went to complete my nomination paper Alan Johnson was next to me in the queue and as we chatted I felt he was the right person as a foil to Gordon Brown. I am sure if it had been one of my other favourites at that last moment they may have persuaded me!
As I write I am torn between letting Lindsay take the crown as the favourite or supporting the next 3 I really like for different reasons – Harriet, Chris and Meg. So at least I have probably narrowed it down to four. There are so many facets to the job – not just shouting at PMQs – that each will bring their own style to proceedings and whilst very different each has their merits. I am sure many of you have sat across the table in interviews and thought -23 people are appointbale but I have to make a life changing decision. It’s not easy.
So today I don’t have a favourite. But it will be day of emotions for many people who are leaving the House. (probably more of that another time). We will see the proceedings today chaired by my former constituency neighbour Ken Clarke. What a way for him to leave the House of Commons – without the Tory Whip and considering voting Lib Dem. That about sums up the madness of this last two years. Others who I know will be standing down will be sorely missed and I mean those from all sides of the House. It is hard to explain how well I have got on with Members across the House and the Lords from all political parties. So they are friends that are departing.
I wish my friends well today. At least we will have one Election result before close of play!
Now the election result is known I can say I am pleased with the outcome! Lindsay will make a fine Speaker. I guess I was slightly surprised it took until the last round for him to get 50%+ . That may be a slight worry for him that it wasn’t overwhelming support from the start, but I do think he will have the support of the whole House in creating a different atmosphere in 2020.
AR 5th Nov