Commons Speaker: Has race to succeed John Bercow begun?

John BercowImage copyright
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The race to be the next Conservative leader seems to be well under way and there are signs another Westminster contest is also getting started.

Labour MP Chris Bryant has been speaking about what he would do if elected House of Commons Speaker.

He told House magazine when John Bercow stands down, his successor must focus on “tending to the wounds” caused by Brexit rows and harassment scandals.

Meanwhile, two female MPs have called for the next Speaker to be a woman.

There has been speculation Mr Bercow will announce his retirement this summer although he has not spoken about his plans publicly, always insisting he would tell MPs first.

When he was first elected in 2009, Mr Bercow said he intended to serve no more than nine years. He was re-elected unopposed again in 2015 and 2017.

In recent months, he has become a pivotal but controversial figure in Brexit debates in the Commons, angering and delighting MPs in equal measure by his interpretation of parliamentary conventions.

Referring to the controversy surrounding the Speaker’s impartiality, Mr Bryant said he thought MPs had “all been a bit bloodied and bruised of late, and the next Speaker has got to be somebody who is going to tend to those wounds a bit more”.

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Before entering politics Chris Bryant was an Anglican vicar

The Labour MP for Rhondda said he would stand for the role – which is elected by MPs in a secret ballot.

He said he would “do everything in my power not to belittle or diminish or lecture MPs from the chair, but, insofar as it is possible, to respect every single person”.

Mr Bryant also said he would like to open up the Speaker’s residence in the Palace of Westminster to welcome international guests and MPs’ spouses.

“I think spouses of MPs get a rough time, so I’d quite like to have some events in Speaker’s House which are either exclusively or primarily for MPs and their spouses, or maybe just for spouses,” he said.

Under a Chris Bryant speakership, parliamentary staff could find themselves in charge for the day. “I’d like to have some kind of event for the staff who run the building on the 6th January, with MPs serving,” he said.

However such promises may not be enough to win him support from those MPs who want the next speaker to be a woman.

Writing in The Times, Labour MP Gloria de Piero and Conservative MP Nicky Morgan said electing another man to the position would be a “missed opportunity” and a “setback”.

They argue that a female speaker would show “the outside world that our parliament is no longer the old boys’ network of the past”.

The MPs did not specify which woman they would like to see as Speaker but wrote that “it needs to be a woman with a proven record of standing up for other women”.

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Betty Boothroyd became the first female Speaker in 1992

Labour’s former deputy leader Harriet Harman – who has previously said she would consider the job if there was a vacancy – re-tweeted the article.

Labour MP Sarah Jones jokingly urged her colleagues to “steady on” adding that “two women Speakers in 600 years is a bit too fast”.

Baroness Betty Boothroyd became the first female in April 1992 and served until 2000.

A spokeswoman for John Bercow has said: “The Speaker was elected by the House in 2017 for the course of the Parliament.

“In the event he has anything to say on his future plans, he will make an announcement to the House first.”

What is the role of the Speaker?

Media captionThe Speaker has found fame across Europe with his signature cry capturing the public’s attention

The Speaker, elected by MPs, is in charge of keeping order in the House of Commons.

They pick MPs to speak in debates and can suspend those who deliberately break the rules.

They also select which amendments will be voted on and decide whether or not to grant emergency debates and urgent questions.

In addition to these duties any new Speaker will have to handle allegations of bullying and harassment in Westminster.

The position is an impartial role and, once elected, the Speaker is expected to resign from their party.

Commons Speaker: Has race to succeed John Bercow begun?}