15 December 2009

A Rotten Speaker?

The Mail report that speaker Bercow wants to create a new 'seat' for the speaker that would only have MPs as its constituents

A barmy idea, yes, and the Mail's implication about this existing at the next election is complete nonsense, but it opens up the debate

Bercow has brought this up solely because he faces a real, if slight, threat from UKIP at the next election, but this really should go beyond this

The real crux of the issue is that a constituency goes unrepresented for several years - that's 70,000 people (Buckingham) without an MP

Bercow may say

‘It is both possible and necessary for the Speaker to continue to be a highly active constituency MP. '

But he's talking nonsense - while they can act as an MP and talk to constituents, they do not vote, table motions, debate etc etc - those constituents are disenfranchised, even if they can go and whinge to their MP...who can't vote

And of course, they get no choice in the matter - for some reason you aren't supposed to oppose a speaker, so a constituency gets lumbered with an MP (who remember, can be a "highly active constituency MP") who they have no say over, and the poor people of Buckingham lost their MP this year without even a say

Isn't that a tad paradoxical? A neutral, uninvolved person in the commons, who is also an elected MP who can deal with constituents, but isn't opposed...

Of course, this situation is helped by the use of safe seats, but as safe seats are already an insult to democracy as it is, I don't feel this improves the situation, just makes it tolerable

So yes, we should look at changing the situation, but not to protect your own arse, Mr. Bercow, but to give 70,000 people a member of Parliament who can actually talk and vote

I refer you to this uttering:

If the tradition [of unopposed speakers] ended, said Mr Bercow, it could be hard for any Speaker to survive for more than one parliamentary term.
and the problem is? Why exactly should we return the speaker at an election? If every Parliament is sovereign then surely they should pick their own speaker each session - this is particularly obvious now as we are facing an election that will see over a hundred current MPs resign, let alone be booted out by the electorate, there will probably be several hundred brand new MPs chosen within the next 6 months, and they have to put up with the decision a disgraced Parliament made less than a year before why exactly?

Anne Widdecombe had it right - the speaker should be going with the rest of them, a clean break - I don't see why this shouldn't be repeated at every election, in all likelihood the speaker will be returned easily - if they aren't, then the public have spoken - they have a right to kick out their own MP, and indeed pass judgement on the speaker, who is a well known figure nowadays

Of course, perhaps one little constituency shouldn't decide the fate of the speaker for the whole house, so he should be removed from the election process all together

That's where Bercow's idea of a special constituency for MPs comes in - except I see a slight logistical problem with that - if only MPs are eligible does that mean they have to be elected as an MP, and then elected as Speaker, and then trigger a by-election immediately after the GE? And when do they vote? Can't be during the general election as there are no MPs after a dissolution, you can't give special precedence to them if they aren't technically MPs, and then what happens when the speaker seeks re-election? He wouldn't be an MP, so he would have no legitimacy over 'normal' people, and would only be a former MP/speaker - giving any former MP legitimacy in the election

The idea is a complete muddle

However, he's got the jist of it right - it's just the bit where he wants to gerrymander the situation so he can keep the job for a decade that's off - all you need to do is create a ceremonial office that allows the holder to speak in the house, the house elects an MP to the role, there's a by-election for the seat, then at the new session MPs vote to keep the chair, if not he's out, then they elect a new one

This is very similar to Bercow's idea - but without the rotten borough and technical flaws and with a bit more fairness

All Parliaments should get the chance to choose their own speaker - the time when it was honourable, non-partisan position for chairing debates is over, as the past two selections have shown, there's no reason to tie down a future Parliament with the petty, childish decision of a former Parliament, that's a fundamental basic of Parliamentary sovereignty

No comments:

Post a Comment