John Bercow Can’t Avoid A Ballot

It should never have come to this – and the outcome is inevitable.

Momentary humiliation for the Government as they lose the Speaker vote – and indeed, it was a foolish piece of politics, because it was so unnecessary.

All that was required was for the PM to write to Bercow saying he had lost his confidence, and that, whether as PM or LOTO he would ask Conservative MP’s to shout “NO!” on Parliament’s return.

The sneaky vote was distasteful to many MPs.

That said, Labour cheers and Mr. Bercow’s silly “I’m not going anywhere” will, I fear, have finished him off.

The House rules are that a Speaker is normally acclaimed on any new Parliament, but it is open to the House to shout “NO!” and divide. If fifty or one hundred or two hundred Tories shout “NO!’ that is it – a ballot will happen, an election will take place, and it will be secret.

John Bercow’s best play was to have accepted the motion calmly and with grace. That would have shamed the government and neutrals would have voted for him. It is not very likely that neutrals will now vote for the man who is, sadly and self-evidently, the darling of the Labour party in the House.

Who will the SNP want? What if one of their own or a Plaid Cymru MP wants the chair? They would get broad support.

Speakers have been politicized of late. There is no doubt Bercow now faces a secret ballot on his return to Westminster, and neither he nor Labour can stop that. If a Speaker does not have the acceptance of BOTH SIDES of the House, he or she CANNOT survive.

I fear that John Bercow’s lasting legacy may be to abolish the position of Speaker. I can see a new Coalition govt legislating to make the Deputy Speakers of equal rank with a Speakers’ Office determining rules. One man, or one woman, has too much power over the business of Parliament. An overtly party political Speaker who one side is “For” and one side is “Against” has lost that battle.

The treatment of the Clerk of the House, Richard Rogers, will also not be forgotten.

John Bercow had many excellent qualities including Urgent Questions, backbench reforms, and others. His greatest strength was holding the government to account. With all his flaws I would still have voted for him if I had a vote. None of that matters now. His only hope of survival are written proposals to the Conservatives of how he will reform in the chair, as he literally cannot survive without the consent of both sides of the House. I hope for Parliament’s sake he does that, but I fear anger is just too high.

Today was “good political theatre” for the Labour party and John Bercow. Neither will enjoy the massed shout of “NO!” from one set of benches or the other, as soon as Parliament returns.

Secret ballot for Bercow? Yes there will be.

3 comments

  1. andy dennis · March 26, 2015

    Just what british politics needs….more secrecy.

  2. Tom Sweeney · March 26, 2015

    I doubt it, somehow. Whatever the composition of the new Commons, it won’t risk the public’s contempt by miring itself instantly in the ultimate of Westminster political topics.

  3. Paul · March 26, 2015

    “The treatment of the Clerk of the House, Richard Rogers, will also not be forgotten.” But apparently the name of Robert Rogers will be.

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