Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Great speeches given & a report about Monday's House of Commons election of the new Speaker

Monday saw the unanimous re-election of John Bercow as Speaker. It featured several superb speeches by the Speaker himself, Jacob Rees Mogg in support of the Speaker elect, and then after the election there were very good speeches by the PM and Alastair Carmichael for the Lib Dems. Harriet Harman also made a pretty good contribution too. What is not understood is the process and this is a good subject for the blog.

First, one must make the point that the Speaker has been outstanding for backbenchers like myself in the last parliament. He also is a very good orator himself, and at his election to become Speaker it is the only time the Speaker ever truly speaks for himself in parliament: the key passage was as follows:
"It has been an honour to serve as Speaker for nearly six years, and I should be honoured to do so for a little longer if colleagues kindly agree. I shall strive to ensure that the House remains at the heart of our democratic system. All its Members, newcomers and veterans alike, should be part of the cast, not merely an audience.
If there are five words that I should like to be carved on my political tombstone—assuming that such items are not now for ever unfashionable—they are: “He was the Back-Benchers’ champion.” On that basis, I submit myself to the House."

It is fair to say that all of the House of Commons got the joke about the Tombstone after the Miliband EdStone disaster.

In support, Jacob gave his usual erudite and entertaining speech, making the point that:

"The Speaker is the champion of the House of Commons against all-comers—the champion of the Commons against the Lords and sometimes against the judges, but perhaps
most particularly against the Executive. The historians here will know that some seven Speakers lost their heads for championing the Commons against the Executive—something that we hope is no longer necessary."

After Jacob's speech the matter was put to a vote by the Father of the House, Gerald Kaufman, MP. The Speaker was elected unanimously.  

The PM and Harriet Harman on behalf of the main parties are then invited to comment and congratulate the Speaker on his election. They were both very funny, in a dry but precise way, in reply. You need to read the speeches to see how well both did in mildly poking fun of the Speaker, and themselves, whilst acknowledging the importance of the occasion.  

Finally for the Lib Dems, Alastair Carmichael, the MP for Shetland & the Orkney Isles, spoke "on behalf of the elite cadre of Liberal Democrats who have been returned!"
He was warmly received.
The full record of the short debate is here and worth a read: