The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Buggins’ Turn

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 20, 2009 @ 16:14

Isn’t it remarkable how so many people come out with a level of prejudiced, ignorant rubbish regarding the Speakership? How many times have you heard this:

“Labour have had the last two Speakers. There’s a convention that suggests the Speaker should alternate between parties. This time, it’s our turn!”

It’s repeated so often that even Labour politicians think it’s true. Margaret Beckett, at the Hansard Society Speakership hustings said:

“there is a tradition that the Speakership alternates between the main parties… and should therefore go to a Conservative. That is a view that I have both held and advocated in the past”

For a person who has been around Parliament for such a long time that is a daft thing to say.

There is no such tradition. There is no such convention. Just because it appeared to alternate between 1965 and 1992, it doesn’t make it true. A cursory glance at the list of Speakers shows that there were also long periods in which the Speaker consistently came from the same party.

Do you think during the time four Tories were elected Speaker on the bounce from 1928 to 1965 the Tory party was saying, “The convention is that the Speaker always comes from the Conservative Party”? Cos, by Ms Beckett’s standards, that one could indeed be called a tradition!

No. Just as my sciencey-type friends say, “correlation does not imply causation”.

What if there was a third variable underneath it all?

Ladies and gentlemen, the answer is obvious. There is much more evidence to suggest that the convention actually is:

“The Speaker comes from the governing party”

From Until Speaker Party Party in Power
1921 1928 John Henry Whitley Coalition Liberal Coalition Liberal
1928 1943 Edward Algernon FitzRoy Conservative Conservative
1943 1951 Douglas Clifton Brown Conservative Coalition (Conservative PM)
1951 1959 William Shepherd Morrison Conservative Conservative
1959 1965 Sir Harry Braustyn Hylton-Foster Conservative Conservative
1965 1971 Dr Horace Maybray King Labour Labour
1971 1976 John Selwyn Brooke Lloyd Conservative Conservative
1976 1983 Thomas George Thomas Labour Labour
1983 1992 Bruce Bernard Weatherill Conservative Conservative
1992 2000 Betty Boothroyd Labour Conservative
2000 2009 Michael John Martin Labour Labour

In fact, with our shiny new variable, there is just one deviation since 1921 in 11 Speakership elections, when Betty Boothroyd was elected Speaker in 1992. It might have gone further back, but things start getting a little messy in terms of who belonged to which party. But even if it doesn’t, I think it would be much more fair to say that my convention is almost 90 years old.

No. The reason why the Conservatives suddenly want to convince everyone that there is a convention is that they’re desperate for the Speaker to be one of their own this time. And that is demonstrated by fact: there are seven Conservatives and just two Labour MPs gunning for the job.

Tory MPs are relying on the good faith of the Labour majority to show them some mercy this time.

Do you think Labour MPs will be feeling charitable after what happened to “their” Speaker?

Do bears shit in the woods?

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