Archive for the 'Speaker' Category


Boris would be making a big mistake denying Bercow a peerage

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019

Real Conservatives don’t ignore precedents going back centuries

Very interesting that new Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle has felt the need to speak out over whether his predecessor should be give a peerage – as has been the case with Speakers over the centuries.

If this, indeed, is what happens then the PM could be making a huge gamble and make himself look mean and petty. Also on a practical political basis, I’d suggest, Bercow without a peerage would be more an irritant to the government than Bercow with one.

The decision is up to Boris and will be a good test.

Mike Smithson


If the Tory MPs are really focussed on gaining northern LAB seats they won’t choose Lindsay Hoyle as Speaker

Monday, November 4th, 2019

Today’s big election is the voting by MPs on which of them should be the next Speaker to succeed John Bercow. The strong odds-on betting favourite is the current deputy, Lindsay Hoyle MP for the Lancashire seat of Chorley.

One factor that might work against Hoyle is that his seat could be regarded as a target for the Tories. Back in 2010 LAB held it with a margin of just 5.2% which means it would have gone on a 2.6% swing.

As was observed on the previous thread it would be better for the Tories General Election prospects if the incoming speaker was a LAB MP with with a stonking majority which was not at risk from the Tories or any other party. In choosing Hoyle they would be depriving themselves of a possible gain from LAB.

One suggestion is the Rhondda MP, Chris Bryant, who has now moved to second in the betting. At GE17 he held his seat with a 41% majority over Plaid. The Tory was in third place on 10.1%.

Life is going to be very different at Westminster without John Bercow sitting in the Speaker’s chair and there is little doubt that he has had a major impact on the way the post operates. On balance I regard Bercow as having been a good thing and has done much to to increase the power of the the elected House of Commons over the executive something which has not always been totally welcomed by ministers.

A party that hasn’t got a majority or supply and confidence partners, like Johnson’s government since the DUP split, should not always have the power to set the Commons agenda.

Mike Smithson


Let’s not forget that Johnson’s precarious parliamentary situation is largely self-made

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

He inherited from TMay an effective majority of 3

The reason that Johnson is in such a weak parliamentary position stems directly from two big decisions that he has made. First there was the reaction to his first Commons vote when he stripped 21 of his party’s MPs from the whip. Then there was his Brexit agreement with its changes for the status Northern Ireland which have resulted in the DUP’s 10 MPs moving entirely to the other side.

This was all against the background of the announcement in late August to prorogue parliament with the unstated objective of ensuring that the Commons would not sit for five weeks during a critical period. That caused an outrage which, of course, led to the Supreme Court ruling against him.

His aggressive refusal to follow the conventions of the UK’s unwritten constitution has hardly endeared him to parliamentarians who have sought to use whatever means there are to block him. He’s simply lost any goodwill and it is hard to see how he recovers from that.

His current desire to try to get another general election is thwarted by the FTPA which effectively leaves the decision in the hands of Corbyn’s party. His assumption that oppositions would always fall in behind a general election move proved to be a huge strategic mistake.

Sure Johnson has not been helped by the outgoing Speaker, John Bercow, who over his period in the job has sought to increase the power of the House against the executive. But much of Bercow’s position, I’d argue, has been in response to how the PM has approached his job.

The result is a stalemate.

Mike Smithson


If there’s no immediate General Election then the next big electoral test could be a Buckingham by-election

Monday, October 21st, 2019

John Bercow, as we all know, is due to step down as Speaker on October 31st coinciding with the article 50 deadline for Britain’s exit from the EU.

It has become customary, one of those unwritten parts of the constitution, for the outgoing Speaker to be elevated to a peerage and I guess  that will happen with Bercow.

What would make a by-election  hard to call is that the constituency has not seen a proper General Election fight with all the main parties contending it since 2005. The tradition has been that the main parties do not contest the Speaker’s seat which means that Bercow has had an easy time at three general elections he has fought while in the job.

At GE2010 in Buckingham Nigel Farage resigned his leadership of UKIP  to fight against Bercow but ended up finishing in a poor third place on only 17% of the vote. A pro-EU former CON MEP came second. On election day, it will be recalled,  Farage was in a small plane pulling a banner over the area which ended up crashing.

Because there has not been a proper general election contest there since 2005 it is hard to find a a past election result which is a good baseline. Then Bercow was returned with 57.4% of the vote with LAB on 19.9% and the Lib Dems on 19.7%.

Clearly if a general election looks highly likely to be called in early November than that would mean no by-election. But if there is no immediate General Election then my guess is that the writ will be issued almost immediately in early November with the by-election taking place in the week or so before Christmas.

At the referendum Buckingham voted REMAIN with 51.1% so it perhaps would be not good territory for the Brexit party’s Nigel Farage again. Labour did hold the seat with with the controversial publisher Robert Maxwell, as it’s MP from 1964 to 1970.

Assuming that there is no immediate General Election and this could be a very interesting battle.

Mike Smithson


We shouldn’t look much past Lindsay Hoyle as next Speaker

Saturday, September 28th, 2019

But if there is to be another female Speaker, Eleanor Laing is the better bet

The last few weeks seem to have been filled with as many attempts to defy convention and accepted norms of rules and behaviour within Westminster as possible. There’s a certain irony, therefore, that in the election to replace John Bercow as Speaker, a convention many MPs may feel bound to respect a convention – that the Speakership should alternate between the main parties – which is of recent innovation and which came about primarily by happenstance, albeit a happenstance overlaid by a perceived fairness.

The much older convention was that the Speaker came from the governing party. Far from adhering to the ‘rotation’ principle, Betty Boothroyd was the first Speaker to be elected when his or her party was out of office since 1835 (and even then, Speaker Abercromby’s Whigs held a majority of seats in the Commons despite Peel having just formed a brief minority government). In fact, Abercromby would be the first of a sequence of six Whigs / Liberals who would, between them, occupy the chair for seven decades.

The change in accepted or understood principle presumably came about because the Speakership did alternate on four successive occasions between 1965 and 1983 as a result of each vacancy falling following a change of government. Even in 1992, Boothroyd’s election owed more to her being a much more widely acceptable candidate than Peter Brooke, who had been a serving cabinet minister less than three weeks earlier.

Still, despite Boothroyd being followed by Labour MP Michael Martin in 2000, a belief in rotation as a beneficial principle, if not an iron law, clearly exists. What are we to make of that in the upcoming election to replace John Bercow?

Clearly, Labour MPs start at an advantage and this is reflected in the betting odds with Lindsay Hoyle (evens, Betway) and Harriet Harman (5/2, Ladbrokes) leading the way. The first Tory on the list is another of the Deputy Speakers, Eleanor Laing, in fourth at 20/1 (bet365).

Quite why the odds are as close as they are is a mystery to me. Hoyle is by far the most capable of the field and has demonstrated himself to be a very good Deputy Speaker. I see no reason why he should struggle to gain cross-party support.

Harman, by contrast, is not only a former front-bencher of long standing and without experience in the chair, she remains wedded to gender politics, asserting as part of her campaign that parliament should elect a woman to show that it had ‘changed’. Presumably the election of Boothroyd didn’t do that. But I can’t help but feel that her Boris-like sense of entitlement is something of a hindrance. She assumes both that men – whatever their ability – should step aside because of their sex, and that once it’s agreed that the Speaker should be a woman, it should naturally be her. In fact, if it is to be a woman, Eleanor Laing would be a better choice.

However, the election rules will work against Harman, who I can’t see picking up much support at all among Tory MPs. The system used is similar to the method for the MPs’ rounds of the Tory leadership election: all candidates with less than 5% are eliminated in the first round (or the lowest-scoring, if all receive at least 5%), after which it’s a straight exhaustive ballot apart from that candidates can withdraw even if they win election to the next round.

Of the four Tory aspirants, Edward Leigh, Shailesh Vara and Henry Bellingham are not entirely absurd candidates but it’s hard to see from where they gain even modest support. If they do go out early, that would leave only one Tory – Laing – and several Labour ones. For both that reason and because she’s an experienced Deputy Speaker, she could poll very strongly in the middle rounds. To my mind, 20/1 is worth taking: dynamics within a race can transform the outcome but even if they don’t, there’s a trading bet to be had.

It’s true that Laing would break the ‘convention’ of rotation, although how many Tory MPs consider Bercow – who was largely elected by Labour MPs in the first place – as a legitimate Tory nomination is another matter.

However, for those of us with long memories, this all sounds a bit like the run-up to Labour’s 2007 leadership election, when the speculation was on who might challenge Gordon Brown, which ignored the plain fact that it really didn’t matter: Brown was going to steamroller any opposition. To me, the first question of the contest is ‘why wouldn’t you vote for Lindsay Hoyle?’, to which there are precious few good answers.

The fact that Harman is campaigning primarily on parliament making gestures at such a critical time for parliament and the country works strongly against her. In truth, by glaring omission, it emphasises the need for the person who takes on the role to actually understand it inside out, to have the ability to control the House, and to treat members fairly (and, ideally, respectfully).

It is possible, I suppose, that Hoyle could be caught between Tories backing their own, and Labour MPs making political gestures or falling prey to Rosie Winterton’s overtures (Winterton is both a Deputy Speaker, albeit the most junior one, and also a former Chief Whip with the skills and knowledge that brings). I doubt it though. Evens is a huge price in the circumatances and, in my opinion, anything better than 1/2 is value.

David Herdson


This will be a day long remembered. It has seen the end of Bercow, and will soon see the end of No Deal, I think

Monday, September 9th, 2019

I hope Bercow’s successor is Lindsay Hoyle but in these hyper partisan times who knows what Parliament will do, given the send off in Alex Wickham’s tweet I’m expecting the election to replace Bercow to be teeming with partisanship particularly over Brexit.

You will be all delighted to know that the voting system to elect a new Speaker is the exhaustive ballot system which shares a lot of similarities to the alternative vote system.

Meanwhile is Boris Johnson about to sell out Northern Ireland?



Meet the next Prime Minister. Maybe

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Could this former member of the Monday Club be our next Prime Minister?

John Bercow as Prime Minister seems outlandish even in these interesting times. There’s not enough bandwdith on the information superhighway to list all the reasons why this is a bad idea or why John Bercow is so unsuited to be Prime Minister but given the desperation amongst MPs to stop a No Deal Brexit then something outlandish needs to happen.

Do I think Bercow has the ego to think he could be the man to prevent no deal? Hell yes! Is Bercow prepared to set aside Parliamentary convention? Hell yes, in fact he did just that earlier on this year.

Today’s Sunday Times has the following story

Many years ago someone told me that ‘Napoleon had a Bercow complex’, now that Bercow is involved in a plot to stop a No Deal Brexit then it isn’t hard to see how the conversation turns to him offering himself as himself as the man you need if you want a temporary non partisan (sic) Prime Minister to prevent No Deal.

I can see how that might appeal to MPs who really don’t want to make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister, it could appeal to Corbyn to make someone Prime Minister who really won’t be Prime Minister for long, nor leads or is a member of a political party.

I’ve stated that I consider this a pretty outlandish suggestion, the bookies agree, at the time of writing no bookie has John Bercow listed in the next PM market, but they do have another Arsenal fan, Piers Morgan, at 500/1 but if Bercow is added in this market I’d be very interested, depending on the odds.

I think MPs who respect the referendum result but are implacably opposed to both a No Deal Brexit and a Corbyn Premiership are looking for a ‘Hail Mary’ option Bercow as Prime Minister could well be it. Having one person concurrently holding the job of Speaker and Prime Minister would ensure the smooth running of the government in Parliament, something that hasn’t been happening recently.



Will John Bercow leave his job as Speaker in 2019?

Sunday, April 28th, 2019

This looks like the best way to get a 25% return in eight months.

Earlier on this month I wrote a piece about the plans of Tory Leavers to try and oust John Bercow this week just gone, accurately I predicted they wouldn’t have the numbers to oust Speaker Bercow. 

In that piece I bemoaned there were no Bercow exit markets but thankfully Paddy Power now have a market on whether Speaker Bercow will leave his job in 2019. For me it is a no brainer to back the 1/4 that he will not leave his job in 2019. It is clear Tory leavers do not have the numbers to oust Bercow which makes backing the 1/4 so attractive. As Mike Smithson has regularly observed the ERG appear to be just piss and wind.

The only way I can see this bet doesn’t win is if Bercow stands down if we get a 2019 general election, but if the Parliamentary re-enactment of the Battle of Verdun via Brexit has not concluded then Bercow may well decide to stay on. What has the greater potential to see Bercow depart in 2019 is if the bullying allegations against him escalate further, but I really cannot see either scenario happening.