The Futility Monster

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

Who Should Be Speaker

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 21, 2009 @ 20:06

For a start, let’s examine the field:

  • Margaret Beckett (Labour)
  • Sir Alan Beith (LD)
  • John Bercow (Conservative)
  • Sir Patrick Cormack (Conservative)
  • Parmjit Dhanda (Labour)
  • Sir Alan Haselhurst (Tory)
  • Sir Michael Lord (Another Tory)
  • Richard Shepherd (Yet Another Tory)
  • Ann Widdecombe (Getting bored yet?)
  • Sir George Young (I know I am)

In one fell swoop, I can dismiss 6 of them.

Margaret Beckett – too close to the government, not independent enough, no real idea of what it’s like to be a backbencher, no reformist credentials, possibly being installed for wrong, partisan reasons, and on, and on, and Ariston.

John Bercow – if rumours are to be believed, he doesn’t have the support on the Conservative benches. And Labour were thinking about about installing him for the sake of partisan bickering. That makes him a very Bad Idea.

Sir Patrick Cormack – sorry, Sir, but your “well rounded” candidacy (his words) is just a bit too modest for what the country needs. Oh, and I find his very proper pronunciation of “par-LEAH-ment” very annoying!

Parmjit Dhanda – has actually impressed me in the hustings. Maybe next time, or the time after that… but for now, too young, probably too inexperienced in Commons procedure.

Sir Alan Haselhurst – would have been good, but has been badly tainted by expense allegations.

Ann Widdecombe – would have been interesting to see her as Speaker, but purely out of morbid curiosity, rather than actually wanting to see it. But her “interim” status rules her out. 10 months isn’t enough time to do anything, making the whole affair rather pointless.

Now… with a little more examination, I can dismiss a couple more…

Sir Alan Beith – good reformist credentials, but, for purely partisan reasons, I don’t want the Lib Dems to lose such a good MP. Losing any MP is bad; losing Alan Beith would be a shame.

Would you like a young shepherd?

Would you like a young shepherd?

Sir Michael Lord – is a very decent candidate; would definitely have the authority to deal with the Commons from when I’ve seen him as Deputy Speaker. But I feel we can do better…

I’m left with a delicious dilemma between two excellent candidates: Sir George Young and Richard Shepherd.

Sir George Young has authority, gravitas, is well-versed in Commons procedures, and is something of a reformist. He supported a fully-elected House of Lords way ahead of the rest of his party. He’s been on the backbenches and a serious committee member for a very long time. In other words, he’ll do a very good job of standing up for the rights of MPs.

But there is something lacking. Something I alluded to in a previous post. Step forward Richard Shepherd. A serial rebel, with sheer bloody-minded independence. A man extremely knowledgeable about the history of the place. A man who stood up for Freedom of Information when all around him his spineless fellow MPs were trying to exempt Parliament from the FoI Act under the pretence of protecting constituents’ correspondence.

But what’s more – he understands that the Speaker is actually powerless; his hands tied by Standing Orders and conventions. That’s why I said it doesn’t really matter who becomes Speaker. He understands that the real problem is the Parliament is weak as hell. The executive (government) is totally dominant. He realises that real reform has to come from the backbenchers rising up and telling the government that this is our legislature. That they and they alone will decide what comes before it for discussion.

Richard Shepherd is beholden to no one. He has authority. He’d knock Margaret Beckett’s faux reforms (“the devil is in the detail” she said; translation: no change) into next week.  He’s consistently one of the lowest claiming MPs. He’s been a backbencher forever. He knows the frustration that all that entails. He could provide the leadership to change all that.

And that’s why he won’t win.  Like I said in the other post, it’s in no one’s interests to change anything too radically in Parliament.

So tomorrow, we will look at who will win…

2 Responses to “Who Should Be Speaker”

  1. Praguetory said

    Excellent post with an astute conclusion/

  2. stu said

    On the other hand, Anne Widdicombe is the only one about whom Victoria Wood has written a song. That has to count for something, doesn’t it?

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