Simon Carr:

The Sketch: How about a Liberal Speaker? Isn't it their turn after 80-odd years?

Share
Related Topics

In the here-and-there of the corridors, plazas and back passages of Westminster a drama is starting to throb. There's going to be excitement immediately Parliament resumes. It's the election of the Speaker. Or as many have assumed, the re-election of the Speaker.

This is a very grand office with vast accommodation, pay, pension, status and after-career benefits on the international circuit. And as each MP can be described as "the concentrated wisdom of their constituency", so the Speaker is the concentrated wisdom of the House. That's a big job.

On Parliament's first day, Big Ben will strike the half hour. The house will be packed. The benches stacked. MPs standing six-deep at the bar. The hubbub bubbles away. Through the public crush, contradictory moods wash to and fro – nothing ever happens in Parliament for just one reason. The air of anticipation is very intense.

The House is focusing on one thing, one chair, one office, one vote to hold or fold the most senior officer of the House of Commons.

One dissenting voice may or may not be enough to trigger that election. It depends. The Father of the House ascends to the Speaker's chair. In this case it is Sir Peter Tapsell. His Rs go to Ws. It is a momentary sadness that he can't call Huw Irranca to voice the motion. Forget I said that. This is a constitutional moment. He calls to the suddenly still chamber – and puts the Motion to re-elect the sitting Speaker.

If someone calls "Object!" he is entitled to ignore it as a rogue, stray, maverick nuisance. He is there, in a fine phrase from another era, "to collect the voice of the House". Then again, he might take the view that one call is enough.

In an Aesop's Fable irony, John Bercow has over the years treated Peter Tapsell in such a way as to make one objection enough. Without going into the details, Bercow used the old shire horse to show what a moderniser he was, and to palliate himself with the Labour Party. And now Tapsell stands with the Bill of Execution in his hand.

Anyway, rumour has it that there are at least three MPs who will call "Object!" And then there will be a vote.

Interestingly, this vote will be in public. In a very recent decision, all votes for all committees and for the election of the Speaker were to be made by secret ballot. The single exception – the re-election of the Speaker – was kept public by virtue of (it is said) a clever arrangement between Bercow and the then Leader of the House, Harriet Harman. A public vote was less likely to go against a sitting Speaker, they reasoned. That is now to be tested.

So, the House divides. Were the decision to be made on the virtues or vices of the individual, he might win (people don't like to humiliate worthy but unsuitable office holders). However, there will be another proposition on offer.

As a demonstration of coalition values, co-operation and generosity, what about a Liberal Speaker?

Isn't it their turn anyway? After 80-odd years? Isn't it time for a Liberal Speaker?

But who could that be?

Well, there is Ming. Looks like a Speaker. Clever. Stately. Steady. Got a wife with twinkling ankles. We all like Sally Bercow because she's a straight shooter. But Elspeth Campbell is an adornment to the constitution.

Who knows how it will turn out? It's House business, all up to them. We watch with fascination.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
“I just wanted some chicken wings,” Tan Shen told the assembled media. “But once I got in there ... I decided I needed time to think.”  

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” in March  

My best and worst stories of 2014

Simmy Richman
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015