MPs to elect John Bercow's successor as House of Commons speaker

Eight candidates expected to stand in election that could influence Brexit outcome

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Monday 04 November 2019 09:13
Boris Johnson compares John Bercow to 'uncontrollable tennis ball machine' and Scarface in joke filled tribute

MPs will elect a successor to John Bercow as House of Commons speaker later today after his resignation left the role vacant for a first time in a decade.

Eight candidates are expected to formally put themselves forward on Monday morning, with a winner to be announced after hours of voting later in the day.

One of the deputy speakers, Labour MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle, is the favourite to replace Mr Bercow, who stepped down last week, but the nature of the secret ballot means the outcome is difficult to predict.

Other senior parliamentarians who have said they will stand include Labour MPs Harriet Harman, who holds the "Mother of the House" title given to the longest-serving female MP, and Meg Hillier, the current chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

In addition to Sir Lindsay, Mr Bercow's other two deputies, Labour MP Rosie Winterton and Tory Dame Eleanor Laing, are also in the running, as are veteran Conservative Brexiteer Sir Edward Leigh, Labour MP Chris Bryant and Shailesh Vara, a former Tory minister.

Much of the campaign has focused on whether candidates would adopt a similar approach Mr Bercow, who became a controversial figure and was heavily criticised by Eurosceptics over a series of rulings on Brexit, or would adopt a different approach.

Ms Harman is seen as among the most likely to continue Mr Bercow's active approach to overseeing business in the Commons, while both Sir Lindsay and Dame Eleanor have been indirectly critical of the man they hope to succeed. Sir Edward has promised to represent change by being "a bit boring".

The outcome of the election could have a bearing on the Brexit process, with the influence of the speaker having been highlighted by Mr Bercow controversially allowing MPs to pass legislation blocking a no-deal exit from the EU.

The election will be presided over by veteran Tory Ken Clarke, who, as the current "Father of the House", performs the role of interim speaker.

Candidates will submit their nominations between 9.30am and 10.30am and will need to have the backing of between 12 and 15 MPs.

Each candidate will be allowed a five-minute speech when the Commons meets at 2.30pm, with voting to begin shortly after.

A series of secret ballots will be held and the lowest-ranked person in each round eliminated, until someone has won at least 50 per cent of the vote or only one candidate remains.

The victorious candidate will then have to be approved by a motion of the Commons before being ceremonially dragged to the speaker's chair by two of their supporters - a tradition datnig back to a time when the role carried with it the unenvious and potentially fatal task of representing MPs in discussions with the monarch.

The new speaker will preside over the Commons for just one day before parliament disbands ahead of the 12 December general election.

Mr Bercow stepped down last Friday having served as speaker since 2009. The former Conservative MP angered many Tories with a series of contentious rulings on Brexit, but was lauded by supporters as an ally of backbenchers, a reformer and a staunch ​defender of the rights of parliament.

He had been dogged by allegations of bullying in recent years but denied any wrongdoing.

Read more about the outgoing speaker here.

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