14 Aug 2012 15:38:28

Speaker Bercow expresses "sadness" for his "embittered" and "resentful" Parliamentary critics

By Matthew Barrett
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Bercow John squawkingThat John Bercow is the Speaker is a good thing for two important reasons.

Firstly, out of the two final candidates in the Speakership election during the last election, Bercow is the man with the more stern manner when dealing with Parliamentarians misbehaving. Sir George Young, a good man, and an effective Leader of the House, only conjures a hint of temper loss when made to sit through weeks of provocation from his Labour opposite number. I don't think Sir George would have been able to produce the near-anger Speakers occasionally have to. Admittedly, Speaker Bercow has reduced the impact of the Speaker intervening in debates by intervening too often, and sometimes with trivial complaints - but he nevertheless has the ability to silence the House when necessary.

Secondly, Bercow holds Ministers to account. He has made them answer far more urgent questions, and made them explain their actions far more fully than I remember under Michael Martin and Labour. That's the Speaker's job, and we should welcome it regardless of the party of government. 

However, there are plenty of legitimate criticisms to make of Speaker Bercow - for example, his aforementioned cheapening of interventions, and his frequent assertions that "the public doesn't like" MPs to have robust debates in the Commons. There is also Rob Wilson MP's research published earlier this year, which showed that 62% of the Speaker's interruptions are against Conservative MPs, despite only 47% of MPs being Tory. It's not wise, therefore, for the Speaker to use drastic and unkind adjectives to describe those who do not like him. Appearing on the radio this afternoon, Bercow said:

"I pride myself on being courteous to people, and trying to fashion good relations. Why do some like me and others not? To be frank there are issues of personality. ... [but] Sometimes people who perhaps haven’t achieved what they want to achieve in their political career can display some sign of resentment – not necessarily because they themselves wanted to be Speaker, because they feel ‘well, my talents haven’t been recognised. That fellow was a rather free-wheeling, independent minded’ – perhaps even, in their minds, disloyal – ‘backbench member, and suddenly he pops up as speaker. And we don’t like it.’"

Continue reading "Speaker Bercow expresses "sadness" for his "embittered" and "resentful" Parliamentary critics" »

21 Dec 2011 07:15:30

Crass or rather splendid?: Merry Christmas from John and Sally Bercow

By Joseph Willits 
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It would probably be fair to say that anything the Speaker and his wife Sally do, will attract criticism from somewhere. The latest in a long list of 'what's wrong with the Bercow's' is a Christmas card, originally a Sun cartoon by Andy Davey.

The image, bought by the Bercows for £300, with the money going to charity, shows a red-faced order shouting Speaker berating his wife Sally as she answers the doors to paparazzi - making light of her time on Celebrity Big Brother where she became best friends with Paddy Doherty of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding fame. John Bercow apparently wasn't very happy about her Big Brother appearance.

Writing in the Mail, Kirsty Walker describes the Christmas card as a "self-deprecating image in the style of an old-style saucy seaside postcard", and her article uses comments from Tory MP Rob Wilson, an outspoken critic of the Bercows, who says the "image shows that his wife clearly has a single minded view of herself."

Continue reading "Crass or rather splendid?: Merry Christmas from John and Sally Bercow " »

24 Nov 2011 09:29:30

Parliamentary authorities clamping down on "political" material in the Palace of Westminster?

By Matthew Barrett
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BurrowesInCommonsA question asked yesterday by Conservative MP David Burrowes suggests that Parliamentary authorities are restricting the rights of constituents to bring material of a political nature into Parliament. The incident in question occured when a constituent from Mr Burrowes' Enfield Southgate division tried to attend a Palestine-focused lobby meeting. The full question - and Mr Deputy Speaker's unfortunately unhelpful answer - was:

"Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Something happened to one of my constituents today that is of fundamental importance, I believe, to all hon. Members regarding constituents’ access to Parliament. My constituent attended a Palestine lobby, similar to one she has attended on many previous occasions, but on this occasion things were different. As she arrived at security, a police officer confiscated her lobby briefing material and told her that she was not allowed to have anything of a political nature. In fact, she was told that this was a direction from the House authorities. The officer then spoke to a senior officer, who gave the same response. Eventually, the material was returned to her, but she was told, “Yes, we will return this material, but do not do this again.” I ask your advice, Mr Deputy Speaker. Was this a direction from the House authorities? Will you confirm that constituents are not allowed to have anything of a political nature with them when they attend Parliament?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): This is a matter for the staff and the police. The hon. Gentleman will know that we do not discuss security issues or what has gone on as a matter of security, but he has put his views on the record. I am sure that the authorities and security will look into the matter, and I am sure that someone will come back to the hon. Gentleman now that he has raised it on the Floor of the House."

The appropriate section of Hansard can be found here.

6pm Update: Political Scrapbook has more details on the objectionable material in question:

"Scrapbook has spoken with the woman concerned, who says the officers told her this was “a directive of the Serjeant-at-Arms”. You can view the materials which the officers found so objectionable here."

27 Aug 2011 14:20:21

How many members of the public have complained about MPs' behaviour in the House - hundreds? Thousands?

By Matthew Barrett
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Last month we covered the findings of a survey which showed Speaker Bercow's oft-repeated complaint (as shown in the video segment above) about "the public" not liking robust debate in the House of Commons, was unsupported by public opinion. 

But a survey is only a survey, and the wording - "Robust exchanges in the House of Commons are an important part of our democracy" Agree/Disagree - was not perfect. 

Continue reading "How many members of the public have complained about MPs' behaviour in the House - hundreds? Thousands?" »

11 Aug 2011 13:26:39

Labour MP Rob Flello speaks in the Commons without a jacket

By Matthew Barrett
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RobFlelloShirt3 I don't seek to trivialise the debate, or the subject of debate that Parliament was recalled for today. 

However, as well as the content of today's debate, there was an important procedural/sartorial development. 

Rob Flello, the Labour Member for Stoke-on-Trent South, was allowed to speak in the Chamber without a jacket. 

Continue reading "Labour MP Rob Flello speaks in the Commons without a jacket" »

18 Jul 2011 15:28:04

Speaker Bercow vs. Public Opinion

By Matthew Barrett
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A variation of the segment of the above video, in which Speaker John Bercow tells a noisy chamber that "the public doesn't like it", is a regular occurrence at Prime Minister's Questions.

Continue reading "Speaker Bercow vs. Public Opinion" »

6 Jul 2011 08:06:30

Tory MP Rob Wilson puts his head above the parapet with attack on "partisan" and "divisive" Bercow

By Tim Montgomerie
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Bercow Smiling

Conservative MP Rob Wilson has launched a direct attack on the Speaker, John Bercow. He hasn't done it on the floor of the House but on the pages of The Daily Telegraph.

He writes that Bercow "has emerged as a partisan, divisive figure, and one far too full of his own importance."

As evidence of partrisanship Mr Wilson argues that "he constantly interrupts and chastises Conservative MPs, while giving generous leeway to Labour opponents." He also cites last week's PMQs when, twice, the Speaker cut Cameron off in midflow.

Continue reading "Tory MP Rob Wilson puts his head above the parapet with attack on "partisan" and "divisive" Bercow" »

8 Jun 2010 15:39:06

Lindsay Hoyle, Nigel Evans and Dawn Primarolo elected Deputy Speakers

John Bercow has just announced the result of the elections for the three Deputy Speakers.

The successful candidates were:

  • Lindsay Hoyle - Chairman of Ways and Means
  • Nigel Evans - 1st Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means
  • Dawn Primarolo - 2nd Deputy Chairman of ways and Means

Needless to say, having backed both Lindsay and Nigel, I am delighted to see them both elected.

> Paul Waugh has the full results on his blog, but the first preferences were:

  • Nigel Evans (Con) - 124
  • Lindsay Hoyle (Lab) - 90
  • Dawn Primarolo (Lab) - 76
  • Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Con) - 57
  • Roger Gale (Con)  - 48
  • Tom Clarke (Lab) - 47
  • George Howarth (Lab) - 40
  • Anne McIntosh (Con) - 24
  • Marsha Singh (Lab) - 9

Jonathan Isaby

7 Jun 2010 06:42:50

MPs should back Nigel Evans and Lindsay Hoyle in tomorrow's election for Deputy Speakers

Anne McIntosh 6.15pm update:

All eight candidates who attended the hustings listed below have been nominated for the post along with a ninth candidate, Anne McIntosh, the Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, who has also put herself forward for chairman of the Defra select committee on Wednesday.

Given that one female candidate must be elected, there is now effectively a two-horse race between Anne McIntosh and Labour's Dawn Primarolo for one of the posts - although my understanding is that if one of the Conservative males get sufficient votes to be elected before Anne McIntosh, then Primarolo is elected by default as only one Conservative can win one of the posts.


Deputy Speaker candidates
5pm update
: Above are the eight candidates for Deputy Speaker at the Dods hustings currently underway in a Commons Committee Room, along with the meeting's chairman, Graham Brady. Left to right: Roger Gale (Con), Nigel Evans (Con), Lindsay Hoyle (Lab), Marsha Singh (Lab), Graham Brady, Tom Clarke (Lab), Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Con), George Howarth (Lab), Dawn Primarolo (Lab)


Whilst on Wednesday there will be the election of select committee chairmen, tomorrow - between 10am and Noon in the division lobbies - will see another secret ballot, this time for the three Deputy Speakers of the House of Commons.

It is the first time that these position have been elected, and the system will work as follows:

  • The election is run under the Single Transferable Vote system, so MPs will put a '1' against their first preference, a '2' against their second and so on, for as many candidates as they wish to register a preference;
  • However, given that the Speaker is a former Conservative MP, only one Deputy Speaker can be a Conservative whilst two will be Labour;
  • The "Harmanised" rules state that at least one of the Deputy Speakers must be a woman (although MPs are not obliged to vote for one). 

I did not personally take a view on the recent 1922 Committee chairmanship election and will not be doing so for the committee chairmanships on Wednesday, but for this vote tomorrow I am declaring in favour of two candidates and would ask you to lobby your MPs to vote as follows.

Picture 2 I would urge MPs to give their first preference vote to Nigel Evans, who has been Conservative MP for Ribble Valley since 1992 (when he regained the seat from a Liberal Democrat and has increased his majority at every election ever since). This is in no way to denigrate the abilities and talents of the other Conservatives standing, all of whom could do the job well (their names are below), but Nigel is a long-standing friend who I know would serve the House with distinction.

In Parliament Nigel already has experience of chairing debates in Westminster Hall and on Statutory Instruments, as a member of the Speaker's Panel of Chairmen available for such duties: he is without doubt a dedicated parliamentarian. He is both liked and respected on all sides of the House, as demonstrated by the fact that several years ago he was elected by the whole House to serve as the UK Parliament's representative on the International Executive of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. He is a former Conservative Party vice-chairman and shadow cabinet member, but also has experience of cross-party working, as one of three Co-Presidents of the British Youth Council, for example. Nigel also has a great sense of humour, which is invaluable for this kind of role.

Picture 1 I would then urge MPs to give their second preference vote to Lindsay Hoyle, who has been the Labour MP for Chorley since 1997. Like Nigel, he is a real House of Commons man, although he was never promoted from the backbenches by either Tony Blair or Gordon Brown due to his tendency to tell it like it is and publicly challenge the actions of the Labour Government. This sets him out as independent-minded and a backbenchers' champion in a field of Labour MPs who are mostly ex-ministers.

I got to know Lindsay through a joint interest in Gibraltar, when he was one of the very few Labour MPs to vocally oppose the previous government's disgraceful attempt to surrender sovereignty over Gibraltar to Spain. Further to that, he also endears himself to Conservatives since he was again one of the few Labour MPs who voted for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty when Gordon Brown junked that commitment.

We will not have the final list of runners and riders until nominations close at 5pm today, but I understand the following names all to be in the field:

  • Tom Clarke (Lab)
  • Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Con)
  • Nigel Evans (Con)
  • Roger Gale (Con)  
  • George Howarth (Lab)
  • Lindsay Hoyle (Lab)
  • Dawn Primarolo (Lab)
  • Marsha Singh (Lab)

If no further names are nominated, Primarolo would be elected by default as the only female candidate (which is outrageously anti-meritocratic but that's an argument for another day).

> Dods are hosting a hustings, to be chaired by Graham Brady MP, at which the candidates will put their case to fellow MPs at 5pm tonight in Committee Room 12. Any MP wanting to attend should RSVP via email to Dods.

Jonathan Isaby 

22 Mar 2010 12:49:20

Michael Martin heads the list of those to blame for the outrageous treatment of Damian Green in November 2008

Damian Green 2010 A special Commons committee convened to consider the events surrounding the arrest of Damian Green and search of his Commons office (with regard to leaks he had received from a Home Office civil servant) has published its report this afternoon.

You can read it in its entirety here, but suffice to say it is critical of the former Speaker, Michael Martin, the police, the Home Office and the Cabinet Office, among others.

The report concludes that Home Office officials were at fault "in allowing an exaggerated impression to be formed by the Cabinet Office of the damage done by the leaks". In turn, the Cabinet Office's references to national security having been compromised were deemed to be "hyperbolic and unhelpful".

The arrest of Mr Green was "disproportionate" and "poorly executed", the committee concludes, with the use if electronic surveillance also being condemned.

The search warrants were obtained on the back of written informations with "sloppy wording", with the police's failure to advise the Serjeant at Arms of the right to refuse consent for a search "symptomatic of the sloppy approach of the police in this case".

There was "seriously inadequate communication" between the Speaker, Clerk of the House and Serjeant at Arms, but "Mr Speaker Martin failed to exercise the ultimate responsibility, which was his alone, to take control and not merely to expect to be kept informed."

Damian Green has responded with the following brief statement:

“This report exposes serious failures at the heart of Government, the police, and the Parliamentary authorities. The ultimate responsibility for this wretched attempt at authoritarian Government lies with Ministers, and in a few weeks the British people will be able to pass judgement on them.”

Jonathan Isaby

23 Jun 2009 07:37:52

David Cameron's congratulatory marks to the new Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow

Picture 5

"Mr. Speaker-Elect, may I join the Prime Minister in offering my congratulations, and in wishing you well, not least in crossing that last hurdle that the Prime Minister referred to: the agreement of the monarch? I would like to thank the Father of the House for the way in which he conducted proceedings. I was not here for the last contested election for Speaker, but I gather that this one was a model of efficiency and good practice, so I thank him for that.

Mr. Speaker-Elect, you know that on the Conservative Benches all colleagues share a view of the importance of the House of Commons, the importance of the role of Speaker and the importance of the practices and procedures in this House, and you should know that, in discharging your responsibilities, it goes without saying that you have the support of those on these Benches, but not just in your work as Speaker, but in the vital work of reforming and renewing this House, which so badly needs to happen.

Mr. Speaker-Elect, I have read a lot about our own relationship. The thing that has never come out is the fact that, of course, briefly for a time we were both together the first pair of the Lords and Commons tennis team. I would also like to put on record a historical first that you have achieved, which is to be the first person of the Jewish faith to occupy the office of Speaker of the House of Commons, and it is a milestone that we should mark. I also noted, as all colleagues did, what you said about casting away your past political views, and I think that on the Conservative Benches we would say, “Let’s hope that includes all of them.”

I listened carefully, as did hon. Members throughout the House, to an excellent debate this afternoon and a series of very strong and powerful speeches. I thought that there was something very powerful in what the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda) said about our need to demonstrate in this House of Commons that we get it—that we get the need for transparency, that we get the need for the reform of pay and allowances, and that we get the need to understand, and respond properly to, the public’s anger. We share a collective responsibility for what went wrong; we share a collective responsibility for putting it right. Your success will enable all of us to succeed in that; and on that note, I wish you well."

Source: Hansard.

17 Jun 2009 16:48:00

David Cameron pays tribute to Michael Martin's "decency and kindness"

Full text of the Conservative leader's Commons tribute to outgoing Speaker, Michael Martin.

"Mr Speaker, it is right that the House has this opportunity to pay tribute to the service that you have given.

And for once I can actually say “you” while remaining in order.

I share so much of what the Prime Minister has said about your record, about what you’ve done for your constituents, and about what you’ve done for this House.

Yours was a very moving speech.

Everyone could hear your passion about this place, and all of us who care about the House of Commons, who care about Parliament, its place in public life, we must all deliver what you said we must, which is to restore trust in the House of Commons.

It is fair to say there have been quieter times to be Speaker – although some of your predecessors may have had cause to think they picked even shorter straws.

After all, seven of them were actually beheaded.

But you have presided over the House at a time when there has been widespread concern about an over-mighty Executive and the diminished role of Parliament.

And that was not something that was in your power alone to stop.

And let us be clear about the expenses issue.

The whole House shares in its responsibility for what has happened in recent weeks.

As you said in your remarks, it was the House as a whole – not all of us, but the House as a whole - which last July rejected many of the reforms put forward by the Members Estimate Committee - which you, Mr Speaker, chair.

Continue reading "David Cameron pays tribute to Michael Martin's "decency and kindness"" »

11 Jun 2009 14:56:54

Edward Leigh MP encourages transfer of powers from Leader of House to Speaker

Iain Duncan Smith, Peter Bottomley and others have joined Edward Leigh to call for the Speaker to take on the powers currently held by the Leader of the Commons.

This is the Early Day Motion initiated by Mr Leigh:

"That this House believes that the Government should not control all the time on the floor of the House; considers that Parliament should be reinstated as an independent forum by empowering the Speaker, select committees and backbenchers; further believes that Mr Speaker, through a business committee of the whole House, should determine a significant part of debate on the floor of the House, whilst leaving adequate time for the Government to get its business through, to enable select committees and hon. Members to make substantive motions as well as Government and opposition parties; further believes that Mr Speaker should effectively become the non-partisan manager of the House, liaising with Government and opposition business managers; further considers that select committees, as well as scrutinising Government departments should be upgraded to an advise and consent role on senior public appointments; further believes that Government should have to respond in detail to all select committee recommendations; further considers that select committee chairs should be selected by secret ballot of the whole House within the context of party balance; and further believes that select committees should be entitled to receive the kind of support from the National Audit Office and the Scrutiny Unit currently given to the Public Accounts Committee."

9 Jun 2009 10:14:26

Sir George Young sets out his stall for the Speakership

Picture 1The election of a replacement for Michael Martin will take place a fortnight today. The Hansard Society has organised a Speaker's hustings for June 17, and confirmed participants so far are:

  • Alan Beith MP
  • John Bercow MP
  • Sir Patrick Cormack MP
  • Frank Field MP
  • Richard Shepherd MP

Last week Conservative MP for Buckingham, John Bercow, outlined why he wants to become Speaker and the approach to the job which he would take.

Today former Cabinet minister and Conservative MP for North West Hampshire, Sir George Young, enters the race, setting out his stall through an article in The Times.

He says that his views about many of the necessary reforms to Parliament are included in the report of Ken Clarke's Democracy Taskforce (on which he sat). But he goes on to summarise his platform as follows:

Continue reading "Sir George Young sets out his stall for the Speakership" »

3 Jun 2009 18:01:57

John Bercow sets out his 3,000 word manifesto for a '21st century Speakership'

Speaker's office John Bercow MP - the bookmakers' favourite to be the next Speaker because of strong support from Labour MPs - has written to all MPs, sending them a 3,000 word Reform Prospectus for Parliament.  Here's a PDF of what the Tory MP for Buckingham has called 'The Speakership in the Twenty First Century.'

Pasted below is his letter to colleagues:

"Dear Colleague,
As I think you know, I am putting myself forward for the Speakership. I therefore thought it only courteous to set out in some detail my vision for the role if I were fortunate enough to be elected.
Accordingly, I attach what might be termed a “reform prospectus” – if not a manifesto – which addresses the issues under five separate headings. I hope you find this helpful. A copy has also been sent to you in the internal post.
1. The Context
The next Speaker faces an unprecedented challenge – to help clean up politics, to place Parliament at the centre of an effective democracy and to build a relationship of mutual respect with the electorate.
2. My Own Candidature
I have a track record of political independence, pursue unfashionable but important causes on a non-partisan basis, and can demonstrate competence in chairing and communicating alike. 
3. Allowances and Expenses
We must accept external advice on a new allowances’ system, ensure that the majority of MPs who have to live in two places are able to do so and redouble our efforts to make Parliament more representative of the country we serve.
4. Putting Parliament First
We need greater independence for Parliament from the executive; we need enhanced scrutiny both of policy and of legislation; we need better use of time and more opportunities for backbenchers to challenge the government.
5. Speaker as Ambassador
The next Speaker has to be a Speaker and a Listener, explaining the role of the House and the work of individual Members, but also listening to and, as appropriate, assimilating the views of the public.
This is no time for interim measures or party manoeuvring for future advantage. Indeed, the House needs to elect a Speaker who has a mandate to take Parliament forward in the critical years that lie ahead. As a matter of principle, I believe strongly that the post of Speaker should not be a job for life but an opportunity to make a difference within a reasonable period of time. If you do me the honour of electing me, I will serve for no longer than two full Parliaments and, in any event, for no more than 9 years in total. Any Speaker should be able to make a mark in that time and his or her successor should then be elected by experienced MPs in the existing Parliament before a General Election. It should not be done after a General Election, on party political grounds, by newly elected MPs who do not know the candidates.
If you want to discuss any of the issues I have raised, I would be pleased to hear from you. I should be honoured if you would support me in the election on 22nd June.
 With best wishes,
 John Bercow."