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Time to order a new Speaker…

by AprilSix Proof

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash


John Bercow has announced his resignation as the Speaker of the House and as an MP. He will leave his post on October 31st 2019, unless a vote for an early general election is passed before then.

Bercow has been one of the most interventionist Speakers in history, challenging government and extending the role beyond its traditional scope. This sets up the most important question for the next Speaker, will they follow in Bercow’s activist footsteps or return to the previous norm?

Current political trends also help answer this question: small majority and minority governments give far more scope and power to the speaker to influence the agenda. A majority in the Commons would make the Speaker far less powerful. However, with neither party set to win a large majority in an upcoming election, it is unlikely the power of the speaker will decline dramatically

By resigning on the 31 October, John Bercow increases the likelihood of a more independently minded Speaker emerging, as in the current commons Government whips are unable to construct a majority behind a more compliant candidate.

Potential successors:

  • Chris Bryant: Labour, MP for Rhondda – Confirmed Standing – is a former Shadow Leader of the House, who wants to stand to ‘return to the rulebook’. He is 57 years old and has been an MP for 18 years. Bryant was previously a vicar, who also had a career at the BBC. His parliamentary interests include European Affairs, Welsh Affairs and the Information Economy.
  • Harriet Harman: Labour, MP for Camberwell and Peckham – Confirmed Standing – is seen as a unity candidate in who holds national standing as the mother of the house and Labour Party senior (having served as interim leader in 2015, deputy shadow prime minister and in various roles in shadow cabinet). She has promised to be ‘scrupulously neutral’ in her politics if elected, but also to stand for backbenchers rights in a manner similar to John Bercow. She is 69 and has been an MP for 37 years. Harman’s first career was as a solicitor. Her parliamentary interests include women, social services, law, domestic violence, and civil liberties.
  • Meg Hillier: Labour, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch – Confirmed Standing – is the Chair of the influential Public Accounts Committee. She is a Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, and a known critic of Jeremy Corbyn. She has been an MP for 14 years and is 50 years old. Before Parliament, Hillier worked in the London assembly. Her parliamentary interests include transport, energy, climate change and Northern Irish affairs.
  • Sir Lindsay Hoyle: Labour, MP for Chorley – Confirmed Standing – is the current favourite to replace John Bercow. The Labour MP has served as a deputy speaker for 9 years and is popular amongst backbenchers. He was first elected in 1997 and has spent 22 years as an MP. He is 62 years old and has always had a career in politics. His parliamentary interests include trade and industry, business and agriculture.
  •  Eleanor Laing DBE: Conservative, MP for Epping Forest – Confirmed Standing –is a Conservative party MP who has been a deputy speaker in the Commons for 6 years. She is 61 years old, and has been an MP since 1997 (serving for 22 years). Prior to becoming an MP Laing was a solicitor. Her parliamentary interests include Scottish affairs, home affairs, education, transport, economic policy, devolution and the Constitution.
  • Pete Wishart: Scottish National Party, MP for Perth and North Perthshire – Confirmed Standing – is the SNP Shadow Leader of the House of Commons. He has been an MP for 14 years, and is 57 years old. Before becoming an MP, Pete Wishart was a member of the band Runrig. Wishart is the only candidate to have a manifesto so far, including allowing for electronic voting, allowing clapping and relaxing clothing restrictions. His parliamentary interests include drug policy, Scottish affairs, justice and equality and intellectual property.
  • Sir Edward Leigh: Conservative, MP for Gainsborough– Confirmed Standing – has been a Conservative MP for 36 years and has an outside chance. He wishes to stand for speaker to take the role back to its more traditional role. Sir Edward Leigh is 69 years old. He is a qualified barrister, who also worked as a private secretary to Margaret Thatcher before becoming an MP. His parliamentary interests include defence, foreign affairs, agriculture and families.
  • Sir Henry Bellingham: Conservative, MP for West Norfolk – Confirmed Standing – is popular amongst pro-Brexit conservatives but widely considered an outsider in the competition. He promises to be a more traditional speaker – allowing for less urgent questions and backbench business. Sir Bellingham served as the MP for North West Norfolk between 1983-1997 and then again from 2001 onwards –a total of 32 years. He is 64 years old.  Prior to becoming an MP Sir Bellingham was a barrister. His parliamentary interests include small business, agriculture, defence, Northern Ireland, tourism and overseas territories.
  • Rosie Winterton DBE: Labour, MP for Doncaster Central – Rumoured –  is a former popular chief whip is rumoured to be being considering running. She has been an MP for 23 years (first elected in 1997) and is 61 years old. She has spent her career entirely in politics, either as a staffer, lobbyist, or MP. Her parliamentary interests include health policy, transport, employment, housing and home affairs.