The Futility Monster

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

Posts Tagged ‘John Bercow’

Bercow Pushes For Reform

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 10, 2010 @ 10:02

And sometimes it's even quieter than this...

It seems like Speaker John Bercow has caught the reformist zeal and is getting into the spirit of things

Bercow said it was his ambition to persuade as many as 100 MPs to be in the chamber on most occasions by reordering debate, increasing topicality and trying to throw out time-consuming subjects.

Now, I know Mr Bercow is his own man, and he did promise to push a reform agenda, but I refuse to believe that he could be allowed to go so public with a contribution such as this if he didn’t have some sort of tacit agreement with the government. Speakers never get into a public spat about their opinions of how the House is managed, and so it would be amazing if he went to pick a fight on this issue.

The plans themselves are moderately interesting. While it’s impossible to make MPs attend they chamber, he is right to suggest they are more likely to attend if the issue is topical, for the simple reason that every MP knows if they can get their contribution into Hansard, they can immediately press release it to their local rag showing them “fighting hard for you”.

He is also right that there are “too many general debates which are indeed extremely general and rather lengthy”. House of Commons time is frequently wasted with an entire day’s “debate” on either hugely broad issues like defence, Europe, Wales, or extremely specialised ones like International Women’s Day. The subject matter is too broad to have a real debate, since every contributor comes armed with a speech they’d like to give on the subject, regardless of what everyone else says.

Opposition Days, where the Opposition picks the subject, are sometimes more topical, but it is at the mercy of the Opposition to pick a sensible issue. An Opposition Day motion was what defeated the Labour government on the Gurkhas issue; and government defeats on these are real keepers, since until that one the last one was in 1978. Opposition Days create more of a partisan rancour than usual, and as such rebellions are rare.

The alternative, proposed by the Speaker, is to have the public suggesting subjects for debate based on public petitions. It would be trivial to add such a function to the Parliament website. Whether this would make them more topical is open to question, but I’d be inclined to think even if it didn’t, it would generate topics that are less about embarassing the government, and more designed to elicit a genuine response.

What makes me think that? Well, questions from the public on Question Time, etc. are never as openly hostile and filled with elephant traps like the ones posed by journalists. In a sense, this makes them easier, but if the question is from a less partisan atmosphere, MPs may be more willing to be more honest with their opinions.


Either way, it’s good that change is being discussed openly. Over to the Secretary of State for Political Reform…


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Looks Like The New Parliament Is Stupid Too

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 18, 2010 @ 08:48

The Man Himself. He's been standing there for over a week now, waiting to "welcome" everyone back...

As usual, I’m being more than a little deceptive in the title, but this story just pisses me off:

John Bercow is set to become the first Speaker in living memory to have his re-appointment challenged by a vote in the House of Commons.

If, as James Landale has written in the story, it is true that some MPs object to Mr Bercow because he has cast aside even more of the “ceremonial” dress, then their obsession with such fripperies, rather than the serious issues facing this country, should make them ineligible to represent us.

Perhaps he’s just written that to make them sound a little silly. That’s what journalists often do, after all. But the serious accusation that he has been partisan needs some evidence.

Unfortunately, there isn’t… much. OK, maybe once or twice at PMQs he’s stopped a line of questioning with a rather bizarre explanation. But that’s the nature of the man. Everyone knew that he was going to enjoy the limelight and take his opportunity to exert his authority early. That’s what Speakers have to do though.

And now, today, we’re going to have this charade of embarrassingly precious MPs standing up to register a protest about him.

For wasting everyone’s time, and for reminding everyone once again why some politicians are idiots, and for kicking off this new Parliament with a show of farce so reminiscent of the last one, they really ought to hang their heads in shame.

Maybe they’ll rethink during the course of the day. Maybe they’ll realise that they are hopelessly outnumbered and decide it’s not worth the trouble of more bad headlines for being seen to be so fickle, so touchy, a mere nine months after forcing the old Speaker out and picking a new one.

Buyer beware, as they say.

Maybe they’ll be more careful next time. Perhaps the grass isn’t always greener…

UPDATE – 15:30: in the end, there was no vote. The number of MPs that shouted “No!” to oppose him can probably be counted on the digits of two hands. Common sense prevailed, and it’s time to move on…

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Newsfelch: 23/12/09 – The Futility Of Wisdom

Posted by The Futility Monster on December 23, 2009 @ 09:07

Christmas approaches. Serious journalism, if it’s not already dead, disappears in a lather of mince pies and cooking sherry. The interns take over the office, desperate to impress their bosses as to their work ethic.

The world keeps turning…

  • John Hutton warned us that Gordon Brown was going to be a “fucking disaster” after all. Only now he’s changed his mind. Film at 11. How very convenient for a man who is retiring as an MP and has gainful employment already lined up.
  • Universities are going to bear a large swathe of the cuts in this country. This is only the first step. A politician’s mind: cut things to the people who a) don’t vote and b) no one else cares about. It’s a win-win situation!
  • Will Cameron throw one of his largest donors to the lions?
  • The Tories are getting excited about marriage again. I have a feeling we’re going to have one of those Back To The Future elections.
  • Talking of the election, it sounds like it’s going to be held over two days. Great news for us politico geeks. Not so good for the people who have to cover it. I wonder what David Dimbleby’s drug of choice will be this time? Whatever gets you through the night. And the day.
  • But we know for sure that Dimbleby, Boulton, Robinson et al won’t be using any of these…
  • Meanwhile, back in Parliament, The Times’ Ann Treneman is moaning about John Bercow’s propensity to speak his mind on issues of reform. Christ. You pundits can’t have it both ways. Or maybe the media just wants more and more stories on MPs expenses. Yes, that’s it…
  • From across the Pond, Larry Sabato tries to tell us that election debates are a waste of time. Tell that to the Obama team; in my humble opinion, and many others, they were what sealed the deal for him.
  • A remarkably biased article. The headline tells us, in a sneering way, that public sector workers are expecting a wage rise of 2% next year. But why does it not mention that private sector workers are after a 3% rise?
  • The Telegraph is most excited about the overprivileged, totally undeserving members of our idiotic Royal Family, and how marvellous it is that every now and then they grace us with their presence and learn how bad life is for some people. I find it hard to believe, though, that Prince William wasn’t under armed guard during his night “sleeping rough”. Imagine the uproar if something had gone wrong…

And finally, one for the road. Remember this piece of genius from Rory Bremner in 2005?

Back tomorrow with more fun and games. If you can stand it…

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The Defection Myth

Posted by The Futility Monster on December 15, 2009 @ 08:56

As stories emerge this morning about how Labour allegedly tried to get Commons Speaker John Bercow to defect to them, in my mind the old problem emerges.

What about democracy?

I’m one of these crazy people who believes the electorate don’t vote for a person. At least, not here in the UK, under our political culture. When the time comes to vote, people look first and foremost for the party label, and if they can’t read, they’ll look for the logo. It’s The Rose! as Westlife once sang; and that’s where you shall place your X. Or any other mark, since returning officers aren’t that bothered really…

There may be a handful of people who claim to vote to endorse their local MP personally. But that’s broadly because they are the fortunate few that have a good individual candidate in the party that they would support anyway. If they don’t stand at the next election, one rather suspects that they would carry on supporting that party anyway, or at least not vote at all.

Then there are others who claim they support their MP, despite them not being a member of the party they actually support. Of course, it’s very easy to say such things inbetween elections. It doesn’t preclude them, come voting time, from doing everything in their power to see them unseated. I’d be shocked if it was any other way. After all, we all want our own party to win, don’t we?

No, we have never really had a personal touch at the Westminster level. We support the candidate who matches our party. We are party voters first and foremost.

So when an MP turns his back on his or her party, my requirements are simple.

They should resign.

The people of Grantham did not vote for a Labour hack. Neither did the voters of Witney, when Shaun Woodward moved to the Labour Party, and in the process got himself a nice safe Labour seat, allowing David Cameron to become the MP for there at the subsequent election.

MPs should not have the audacity to claim that their mandate is a personal one. That gives them too much prestige, too much status. They are – first and foremost – a member of the party machine.

Because defections are grubby, greasy little affairs. They are not done of a sudden Damascene conversion in philosophy. Shaun Woodward did not suddenly wake up one morning and realise he had been living a lie: that he wasn’t a Tory after all.

No, he did it because he saw the shambles of the Tory Party at the time and realised he had bigger prospects elsewhere. And no doubt was promised a leg-up the ladder. After all, he is now a member of the Cabinet. And Quentin Davies hasn’t done too badly either.

And it sounded like Labour were up to their old tricks in Buckinghamshire as well. Just imagine if Bercow had followed them. He would have turned an 18,000 Tory majority on its head.

Could that fairly be called democracy?

So let’s do away with the myth that it’s OK to defect and not have a fresh election. That’s just a convenient way of making sure you don’t have to have your actions held to account by your own electorate.

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Bercow “Gets It”, But Do Other MPs?

Posted by The Futility Monster on September 25, 2009 @ 06:33

See? I told you he's been waiting. He's been standing there all summer, parading with the Mace. He told me he wants to get the Speaker's Procession "just right".

See? I told you he's been waiting. He's been standing there all summer, parading with the Mace. He told me he wants to get the Speaker's Procession "just right".

At last! Having enjoyed a nice summer, thank-yew-very-much, Speaker Bercow has decided that it probably should be the last.

I can just imagine him in Speaker’s House, sitting there all summer, “smart but unfussy” black gown hanging neatly in the wardrobe, twiddling his thumbs waiting to get back into action, laying the smackdown on errant MPs and ministers. Seeing all this political activity buzzing around him in conferences up and down the country, and yet powerless to do anything about it.

But it’s not just the summer recess that he wants to truncate. No, he’s got big plans.

The good news for those of us who like manifestos and mandates is that Bercow was elected on a pledge to try to bring these into action. In other words, he’s going to attempt to keep his promises.

“Attempt” is the strongest word we can use, though, as it’s all going to be down to whether his fellow MPs take his lead and bring about some of these changes.

They’re nothing too revolutionary… but they are a very welcome start to try to make the House of Commons more relevant in the modern age. Tacked at the end of the above linked article is probably the most important one: the chance to give backbenchers the opportunity to call a vote. This was a power they used to have, but one they desperately need if we’re to avoid a debacle like the one we saw which eventually led to the demise of Speaker Michael Martin.

Following that too would be the institution of a business committee, like the Scottish Parliament, that would mean the government no longer controls the agenda of the Commons. That is important to strengthen checks and balances.

But the other reforms are just as sensible, and will do an excellent job of at least bringing the Commons into the 20th century, e.g. bringing peers before the Commons is just “common sense” – forget the arcane rules that currently don’t allow MPs to hold Lords Mandelson and Adonis to account. He also listed other reforms, but the level of detail is dull. Suffice it to say that each one on their own is useless, but as a package they will improve the ability of MPs to do the job they should be doing: i.e. holding the government to account.

It is good to see the Speaker using his mandate in this way. He promised he would get out in public and make speeches, even appear on television. That is absolutely right in this modern age. The people aren’t going to come back to the politicians willingly. Alas, they are going to have to go out and re-earn the respect they once had.

The big question is as I said earlier: will the government and opposition frontbenchers (because they’re going to be the next government!) be willing to subject themselves to more scrutiny? Do turkeys vote for Christmas?

And will those Tories who think Speaker Bercow was just one big Labour conspiracy support this agenda?

Cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face is a remarkably popular behaviour in Parliament. I wouldn’t bet against it.

(Bercow’s speech to the Hansard Society is not yet available, but most of the key points have been twittered)

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Bercow: So Far, So Good

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 29, 2009 @ 17:12

The Man in full flow.

The Man in full flow.

Having just watched the Prime Minister’s statement entitled Building Britain’s Future (which should, of course, read “Building England’s Future”), I’ve got to say it was a total bore. There was nothing genuinely new, either because a) it’s existing policy (e.g. 18 week maximum for NHS treatment); b) it had been pre-announced (job/training offers for youth unemployment); or c) it was just another chapter in a long running saga (e.g. Lords reforms, social housing).

So instead, I decided to pay close attention to the tedium of House of Commons procedure. And, I’ve got to say, I’m beginning to feel Speaker Bercow is steadily getting on with the job and delivering what’s needed.

First off – he told the backbenchers that he had 36 people waiting to speak – and so asked for brief questions and equally brief responses from the frontbench.

Overall, that is exactly what happened. The questions were much shorter than previous statements, and though Brown did his best to give a verbose answer, they were of a reasonable length. Only once or twice did Bercow stop the questioner for taking a little too long or trying to ask too many questions.

In the end, I counted they got through a total of 41 questions. Indeed, they got through so many that the Labour benchest actually ran of questions to ask, causing a brief cheer from the Opposition benches when two members from that side of the chamber were chosen in succession. In truth, it’s a disgrace that Labour MPs, who outnumber everyone by a long way, could run out of things to talk about. Clearly the whips hadn’t handed out sufficient questions; but they will soon fix that as they realise they need to prepare more for the new Speaker.

But it was even better than that. The final question was actually the very last one members wanted to ask, as there were no more MPs trying to get the Speaker’s attention. Bercow even noted at the end that he was very pleased that everyone was called; that’s either a sign of efficiency on the part of all MPs (and even Gordon Brown for replying quickly enough), or it’s yet another terrible reflection that, really, MPs just aren’t bothered even asking questions of the country’s Prime Minister.

There are still very many things that need changing. I think the Privy Councillors still get precedence. And I wish that MPs could talk to each other, rather than this nonsense of addressing them via the Chair. Minor changes like that would help make the proceedings more understandable. Maybe we’ll get there in time, along with the more radical reforms like seeing the Commons back in control of its own business.

But for now – the man’s got off to a decent start, and he even made a rather tantalising promise to look at the issue of Parliamentary questions.

Why does any of this matter to the average person? Well – maybe if we could hold the government to account a bit better, we wouldn’t be the kind of economic and political mess we’re in in the first place.

UPDATE 30/06/09: Bercow did just as well during today’s statement from Ed Balls – he managed to get all MPs in, and he even laid the smackdown on Ed Balls for constantly bringing all points raised back to the Tory policy on inheritance tax. It’s all good…

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Speaker Bercow’s First PMQs

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 24, 2009 @ 11:57

A View from the Bearpit

A View from the Bearpit

The event fills me with such trepidation and excitement that I think it’s even worth liveblogging it…

11:54am – the tension is building up by the customary entry into the Guess The Year competition on the Daily Politics. I’ve never win, and I doubt I ever will, though I don’t think I’ve ever got an entry wrong. Thanks Wikipedia.

(PS: today’s answer is 1983)

11:58am – Nick Robinson spinning on behalf of Bercow that he’s going to issue a smackdown on long questions and responses. Apparently we’re also going to get a statement from Bercow afterwards, which is exciting.

12:00 – the customary condolences to fallen soldiers…

12:01 pm – Patrick Hall MP asks about housing and mortgage finance. No sign of a question, house getting restless. Bercow speeds him up. Brown delivers the tractor statistics.

12:02pm – Cameron onto his feet – usual insult about planted questions (as if he won’t be doing it when he’s in power). Cameron leads on the budget spending figures again. More tractor statistics in response.

12:04pm – Cameron Round 2 “it’s just not good enough”. Bercow not interested so far, despite the lack of questions. Brown continues along the same path. The House is fairly well behaved apart from the odd theatrical “Oooooh!”, not much for Bercow to sink his teeth into.

12:06pm – Cameron Round 3 – persisting with the discussion of the figures. A total waste of time in my opinion. No actual question. You can make Brown look silly with this stuff, but I think it goes over the head of the general public. It’s going over my head, in truth.

12:07pm – Cameron Round 4 – and more of the same. Sick of hearing the words “capital expenditure” now. Brown gives the same reply, same old tired soundbites. Same old figures. Highest number of wig sales since 1438, etc, etc. Boring.

12:08pm – Cameron Round 5 – moves on to attacking the Chancellor and the divide between Alistair Darling and Brown. No real questions from Cameron. Bercow is clearly going to let PMQs go about the same way as far as the party leaders are concerned. Cameron dithering until he delivers his One O’Clock News line in Round 6. Same from Brown too. Yawn.

12:10pm – Bercow tells the House to shut it: “the public don’t like it, and neither do I”. Good…

12:11pm – Cameron Round 6, no question, just anger, surprisingly no line for the media. Brown delivers his instead. Seemed a bit petulant from Cameron, to be honest. Bercow tells Michael “Wig” Fabricant to calm down…

12:12pm – Paul Farrelly MP asks about the Iraq Inquiry. Brown repeats an argument from last week. Or was it two weeks ago? Nothing new here, despite the “helpful” question.

12:13pm – Nick Clegg’s turn… going on how Brown makes bad judgements and ends up having to back down. Looking for a reverse on public spending. Unusual from Clegg. I’m not quite sure what point he was making.

12:14pm – Bercow telling the House to shut up. Clegg tries again, clarifies it’s too much spending he’s worried about. Various statements about what he would cut. Brown has no equivalent cuts lined up. There goes the economy.

12:15pm – Jim Cunningham MP asks about the implications of a 10% cut in spending on public sector pensions. The questions are so obviously handed out by the whips that it’s embarrassing.

12:16pm – James Duddridge tries to find out if Damien McBride is still hanging behind the scenes. Brown gets angry. Ashok Kumar then asks about steel-making in the North East. Clearly another plant so Brown can tell us all how much work he’s doing. House very subdued. Or are they bored?

12:17pm – Daniel Kawczynski is annoyed about Brown insulting the Polish Law and Justice Party. Brown not interested.

12:18pm – Tom Clarke asks about Burma. One of Speaker Bercow’s favourite topics. He’ll be pleased.

12:19pm – anyone know how far down the order paper we are? Peter Bone asks about unemployment in his constituency. Brown says the figures justify his policies to spend, spend, spend.

12:20pm – Martin Salter, Bercow’s campaign manager tells the House needs to get behind Bercow. He’s very happy with Hattie Harman’s proposal for jailing MPs, and has an amendment to discuss. It’s all very technical, the public are no doubt lost.

12:21pm – Bob Russell says the University of Essex is very proud of their new Speaker, alma mater of that parish. Meanwhile, Bob asks about local educational issues. Brown reads out his briefing…

12:22pm – Barry Gardiner steps into a trap, saying the Rozzers have been giving him grief. Silly man. Oh no, the Rozzers were just calling him to tell him about the wonderful drops in crime! Of course. Then he tries a silly bit of wordplay. Bercow gets fed up and sits him down so Brown can deliver the pre-prepared answer.

12:23pm – Mark Harper tells the Prime Minister to support ending the stigma against people with mental health problems. “It’s a serious problem” says Brown.

12:24pm – Jim Dobbin on another constituency education issue. The funding crisis in the FE sector, which apparently doesn’t exist according to Brown. Spend, spend, spend!

12:25pm – Phil Willis is concerned about universities, their rising rolls, and a lack of investment. Brown loves this one, as everyone in university won’t show up on the unemployment figures.

12:26pm – Linda Gilroy is very excited about water metering. Hardly setting the nation on fire, if you’ll excuse the pun. Bercow has had very little to do. The House is almost too well behaved.

12:27pm – Paul Beresford wants the government to spend, spend, spend on Equitable Life! What is the Tory policy on this, I wonder? Brown, in an unusual move, is not going to commit to spending. How odd.

12:28pm – David Crausby hopes no public spending cuts happen in defence spending. Bercow tells him to sit down – “the PM doesn’t have to concern himself with opposition policy”. Good one. Brown, of course, is delighted with his spending on defence.

12:29pm – Julian Brazier on another defence issue, Afghanistan needs reinforcement, he says. Brown says it has been reinforced. Of course. Phil Wilson then delivers another prepared question on the Tories new European grouping, so Brown can deliver his usual reply. Bercow tells them to shut up, but doesn’t stop Brown wittering on.

12:30pm – Susan Kramer asks about war crimes in Sri Lanka. Brown is happy to oblige with all the wonderful work he’s done on the international stage. Are we going to finish on time? Yes we are…

Bercow has three points to make

1) Ministers must make key policy statements to the House first

2) Statements: frontbenchers stick to alloted times, backbenchers confine themselves to one brief supplementary question. Same too for ministers’ replies.

3) Those speaking in the Chamber will be heard. “Calm, reasoned debate” is needed.

Points of Order… the Tories aren’t happy that there has been some leaking, apparently, to newspapers ahead of Parliament finding out first, on the issue of cybersecurity. Bercow is not happy – says point 1 has been breached.

Another point of order… same topic, point 1 has been breached. Bercow is not again not happy, gives the Treasury bench a ticking off. But wants to see how it goes first.

Another point of order… Evan Harris regarding a select committee to change the procedures of the House. He’s not happy with the limited terms of reference. Trying to get the Speaker to agree that more scrutiny of Bills is needed. Bercow won’t be drawn into it. Shame.

Another… Norman Baker is not happy about ministers of the Crown in the “other place”. Will he allow them to be questioned in the Commons? Needs a rule change, says Bercow… but implies he support it. Except he can’t.

And that’s it. We’re done.

Overall – a pretty easy ride for the new Speaker. Nothing controversial. The House pretty well behaved. No major rulings required. Questions seemed to be fairly brisk. In fact, now that I’m able to Speaker Bercow managed to get through almost all those on the Order Paper. But that broadly depends on how much time Cameron and Clegg take up, and Brown in his replies.

Summary: move on, nothing to see here.

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He Shot The Deputy

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 23, 2009 @ 14:00

Alas – the election of a John Bercow, a Conservative (any Conservative would have done), as Speaker has set in train a very sad event.

Who's for the chop?

Who's for the chop?

One of these two fine fellows will soon be out begging on the streets of Westminster, or even round the Tube station at Canary Wharf, looking for companies desperate enough to take on a member of the old guard to chair their Board of Directors. After all, if you can chair the Commons, that bunch of rowdy losers, then you should be able to handle anything!

Yes, one of the dear Sir Michael Lord and Sir Alan Haselhurst will shortly be leaving their posts as Deputy Speaker. Haselhurst is the more senior of the pair, having been the Chairman of Ways and Means – the most senior of the deputies. Will that count for anything? Will the fact that Michael Lord polled a miserable nine votes mean that he must do the decent thing and fall on his sword? Though perhaps that’s his own fault, as he admitted to not even bothering to campaign or canvass for the job of Speaker. Not a very good politician, methinks.

The reason why one of them has to go is simple. Whichever party (Conservatives or Labour) the Speaker comes from, by convention only one other deputy comes from that party; as the other party then supplies two of them – meaning the balance in Parliament remains roughly equal, no party is disadvantaged for losing one of their number to the “honour” of chairing the Commons.

Basically, the town is only big enough for one of them. But on the other side, opportunity knocks…

There is currently only one Labour Deputy Speaker – Sylvia Heal. Yet now we need a new one. And we may even need two if Heal has had enough. There is talk of offering it to Parmjit Dhanda to serve his apprenticeship, if he is serious about wanting to be Speaker in the future. But I think his candidacy was more of a kite-flying exercise. He’s played his part and done himself no harm whatsoever.

But who from the Labour side deserves the job? We’re looking for all the same criteria one would look for in a Speaker. In truth, there is a real paucity of talent. The most common suggestion will be Frank Field, but Labour will not allow it. Perhaps we’re likely to get an old duffer from the Chairmen’s Panel – what must be the dullest institution in Parliament as it’s a collection of all the MPs who chair Commons committees. Some total non-entity like Joe Benton or Bill Olner. Very exciting.

I suspect we’re going to find out very quickly. After all, Speaker Bercow can’t sit in the Chair all day. I know he wanted the job, and all that, but that would be taking it too far…

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Cheer Up, Conservatives

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 22, 2009 @ 21:44

"Congratulations to the new Speaker" says Political

"Congratulations to the new Speaker" says Political

Judging by the reaction on the Tory-dominated Political, one might think Arthur Scargill had just been elected Speaker of the House of Commons.

Of course, it’s not quite as bad as that. In defeat, we do all like to reach for the hyperbole, but I think that in time the wounds will heal. While I share a little of the doubt about the imminent prospect of Speaker Bercow, I do believe he will do a much better job than Michael Martin.

The beauty of his election that many people are missing, however, is that Bercow issued a manifesto, and a very detailed one at that. He gave out a laundry-list of pledges which it will be very easy to hold against him. Yes, I know, and I’ve said it already – it’s not down to him to implement them. That’s up to the rest of the Commons to have the bottle to vote for change.

But it does mean he can be held to account. Assuming the Tories will win the next election (a very easy assumption) – they will be able to rate his performance against his words. If he’s doing well, it will be very difficult for them to oust him. If not – they will have a very good argument to say “Look, we tried it – he didn’t deliver”. Because there are some things a Speaker can do right now – like having a go at ministers who announce their policies before Parliament. Including the Prime Minister.

And how John Bercow could easily demonstrate his independence by slapping down the Prime Minister. I wouldn’t put it past him, to be honest. Bercow has the ego to do it. He would enjoy being the centre of attention by taking such an action. It would earn him the necessary brownie points on the Conservative benches that he requires.

OK – he may not do something as big as this. But I’m willing to bet he’ll make some very speedy movement, and some large gestures, to prove he is going to be fair at the job, to prove the doubters wrong.

Maybe his expenses were rather high… and I suspect he’s going to have to go a bit further to justify them. After all, he wants to be more active in the media as Speaker. He is the first Speaker to be elected in the era where nothing less than full transparency will do. He is totally aware of that.

If he doesn’t master that fact, he will die by it.

So, Conservatives… it looks like a win-win situation to me!

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So Far, So Good

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 22, 2009 @ 18:27

On the face: very embarrassing

On the face: very embarrassing

Barring a dramatic reversal in the second round, the feared victory of Margaret Beckett will not happen.

Rejoice! For perhaps we are going to be freed from possibly the worst candidate.

But – wait a moment… John Bercow leading the way?

I don’t particularly dislike the man, but at the same time there’s something about him that makes me feel uneasy. A little too… smooth for my liking. I like a bit of rough in my candidate.

Nevertheless, four hopefuls are gone (including Richard Shepherd, for shame), and we will now test just how this exhaustive ballot system works. Assuming everyone voted for who they wanted to is a very big mistake in this kind of voting system. It’s very unlikely that people voted for their first preference because everyone likes to think of silly reasons to vote for other candidates in order to stop X, rather than give Y a chance.

The consequence will be that some of the candidates will see their support drop, despite the sudden availability of preference votes from eliminated candidates. For instance, voters for Alan Beith or Alan Haselhurst may realise the game is up and desert him. Alternatively, voters for John Bercow may decide to “lend” their vote to another candidate in an attempt to force someone else to finish last.

Or perhaps some MPs were complacent, not voting for their real preference because they didn’t think they needed it? That might explain Margaret Beckett’s surprisingly poor showing.

And in any case, no one knows who each MPs second preference is. We barely know who their first preferences were, but no one really thought to ask those who would admit it who they’d vote for in the event their candidate didn’t make it.

Whatever, it’s a horrible system – too much room for strategies and tactics rather than just straightforward votes for who the MP actually wants. Would be much better to do it all in one vote with instant run-off. The Alternative Vote, in other words.

But now, we return to the waiting…

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