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MPs should give John Bercow a ringing endorsement as Speaker this afternoon

Speaker Bercow The new House of Commons will meet for the first time this afternoon at 2.30pm. Its very first act will be to elect its Speaker, with the incumbent, John Bercow, seeking re-election, after being returned at the general election by his Buckingham constituents on the non-party banner of "Speaker seeking re-election".

The election will be presided over by the new Father of the House, Sir Peter Tapsell, and historically the Speaker's re-election has always been a formality. However, the Conservative backbencher, Nadine Dorries, has for months been saying that she will challenge his automatic re-election and seek to divide the Commons on the all-important question of who chairs its proceedings (Iain Dale blogged last night that she had won the support of Labour MP Kate Hoey to the cause and that a variety of names were being mooted as alternative Speakers).

Nadine Dorries wrote the case for the prosecution in the weekend's Mail on Sunday. She mainly dwells upon the Speaker's decision to drop his ceremonial dress (on all but ceremonial occasions) and the fact that the Speaker's wife happens to be a Labour activist - neither of which are reasons for ousting him as far as I am concerned.

I have long been a backer of Speaker Bercow and wrote this editorial in June last year in support of his candidacy when MPs met to replace the discredited Michael Martin.

And I would contest that in the ten months that he has held the office, he has carried it out with aplomb, chairing proceedings in an efficient and confident manner, serving as a champion for Parliament and indeed backbenchers - in a way that his predecessor most certainly did not.

What he wears is by-the-by, whilst the views of Mrs Bercow have no bearing whatsoever on the ability of the Speaker to do his job. Furthermore, his actions in his previous incarnation as a party politician - which I accept were by no means to the taste of many Conservatives - are ancient history, although some of his critics insist on continuing to judge him on that basis.

Rather, as I wrote last June, he should be judged on how he has performed in the chair. Whilst his critics will doubtless find individual instances here or there when they feel he gave one MP a particularly hard time or someone else an easy ride, I would contest that he has been a firm but fair arbiter of proceedings.

He knows the parliamentary rulebook inside out  and has spoken out in favour of enhancing the power of backbenchers in Parliament. His record to date suggests that he has no hesitation in hauling sometimes reluctant ministers to the Despatch Box to answer questions. Meanwhile, he has ensured that more MPs get called at Question Time and Business Questions, even if it has meant occasionally over-running by a few minutes.

Clearly this is a time of great change at Westminster, and this will be demonstrated as Conservative and Lib Dem MPs take their places side-by-side on the Government benches for the first time this afternoon. But, I would suggest, this is all the more reason for a little continuity and consistency as far as the running of Parliament is concerned. Re-electing John Bercow as Speaker will ensure that these momentous political times are smoothly overseen by a tried and tested House of Commons man, and I hope that MPs from all sides will give him a ringing endorsement if the question is put to a vote this afternoon.

10.15am update:

PoliticsHome has reproduced the text of the email which Nadine Dorries has sent to all new MPs this morning:

DORRIES-Nadine Dear new Member,

Many congratulations and welcome to the House.

Please forgive me for this generic email being brief and to the point.

The first job of the House today is to appoint the Speaker. The Father of the House, Sir Peter Tapsell, will present a motion to the House that John Bercow remains as Speaker.

At this point, members will shout 'Aye', on this occasion there will also be members from all parties shouting 'No'. If enough members shout 'No', this will force a division and your first vote as new members will be to vote for or against appointing John Bercow as Speaker.

At this point, the green monitors will flash with the words 'Division' and the division bell will ring. This is a free vote and is entirely unwhipped and so whether to vote or not is wholly your decision. You will also have the option to abstain, and so you do not enter either of the voting lobbies.

Despite scare mongering by some left-wing commentators, there will be no repercussions according to which way you vote.

I am sure you are aware that during the previous Parliamentary term Mr Bercow was appointed as Speaker, with unanimous Labour and a handful of Conservative votes. In the words of a Labour whip, it was done to 'stick it to the Tories'.

That aside, there are a number of reasons why, since his appointment, Mr Bercow has proven unsuitable in the Speaker's role. Not least, on the occasions during the last session when Mr Bercow found remaining impartial, a crucial quality in the role of Speaker, very difficult, leading to a number of heated exchanges between the Speaker and Conservative MPs.

We are about to head into choppy political waters. It is imperative we have a Speaker who possesses dignity, gravitas, ability, wisdom and who can command respect from all sides of the House. A Speaker beyond reproach, who via his experience has earned the entitlement to such an important office.

There are a number of candidates from all sides imminently more suitable, able and willing; Edward Leigh, Sir Menzies Campbell, Alan Hazlehurst [sic], and Margaret Beckett.

It is imperative that we are seen to begin this Parliament renewed and afresh. We can only do that with a democratic vote for the Speaker. If Mr Bercow wins the vote, he will have the endorsement of the whole House and not just the Labour party.

The Labour MP Kate Hoey, who is supporting the vote and I will be acting as tellers. If you come to the division lobby there will be members on the doors directing you to the lobby depending on which way you wish to vote. I am sure you understand the importance of this vote. I look forward to counting you out of the lobby during your first division.

With very best wishes,


Nadine Dorries.

Jonathan Isaby


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