14:00 GMT +321 September 2019
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    Speaker of The House of Commons John Bercow speaks at concert where The German Bundestag and British Parliament choirs performed together to commemorate WW1, in the House of Commons, in London

    Order, Order! Who Is In The Running to Take Over UK Speaker’s Chair From John Bercow?

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    The first Speaker of the English Parliament was Peter de Montfort, in 1258. The current Speaker, John Bercow, has announced his plan to step down next month.

    John Bercow - who announced a month ago he had “no plans to step down” as Speaker - made a volte face on Monday, 10 September and said he would be giving up the job next month.

    The eccentric Mr Bercow, known for his colourful ties and his flowery language, was elected as Conservative MP for Buckingham in 1997 and became Speaker in 2009. He has said he will relinquish his seat when he stands down at the end of October.

    Mr Bercow has been praised for restoring honour in the job of Speaker after Michael Martin, a Scottish Labour MP who was seen as weak for failing to stand up to Tony Blair or Gordon Brown and for lacking integrity when it came to the MPs’ expenses scandal.

    ​But who will take on the mantle of Speaker?

    Lindsay Hoyle

    The first person to throw their hat in the ring was Mr Bercow’s deputy, Lindsay Hoyle, who tweeted his interest in the vacancy.

    Hoyle, the 62-year-old Labour MP for Chorley near Manchester, said Mr Bercow had not confided in him about his plans to stand down, which may suggest they did not have a particularly good relationship.

    Hoyle’s rich Lancastrian accent would be a shock to the system for MPs and he is not the automatic choice for the role.

    Mr Bercow said he would stand down on 31 October or at the general election, depending on which comes first.

    ​With MPs voting to block Boris Johnson’s plans for an election on 15 October, it looks as if the new Speaker will be chosen by the existing Parliament when it returns for prorogation next month.

    Hoyle, who currently chairs the Budget speech and is chairman of Parliament’s Ways and Means Committee, will have to persuade MPs he can step up to the plate.

    But he has some serious challengers.

    Harriet Harman

    The former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman, is now 69 and could be expected to be heading for retirement.

    ​But Harman, who was first elected to Parliament in 1982 and is now the “Mother of the House”, is reported to be introduced in running for the post.

    She would not be the first female Speaker - that honour went to the formidable Betty Boothroyd, who was in the chair from 1992 to 2000 and retired when she was Harman’s age.

    Sir Henry Bellingham

    It is a parliamentary tradition that the Speaker comes from one of the two main parties, Labour and Conservative, and takes it in turn.

    ​Bercow was a Tory, so the next Speaker should by rights be a Labour MP.

    But Sir Henry Bellingham, a Tory MP, is said to be considering challenging that protocol.

    The 64-year-old, who has been MP for North West Norfolk since 1983 - with a four-year gap between 1997 and 2001 - is reportedly a direct descendant of John Bellingham, who assassinated British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval in 1812.

    He has remained loyal to Boris Johnson during the recent Brexit debates acrimony, which may make it hard to get enough MPs to vote for him.

    Meg Hillier

    Mr Bercow was praised by many, including Mr Hoyle, for being a “moderniser” but many women still find Parliament has the atmosphere of a 19th century gentleman’s club.

    One MP who might be able to change that is Meg Hillier, a Labour MP from a tough part of Hackney in east London.

    The 50-year-old backed the wrong horse - Owen Smith - in the 2016 Labour leadership election and knows she is unlikely to get a ministerial job in any Jeremy Corbyn government, so the title of Speaker may appeal.

    Hillier, the mother of three children, may even follow Australia and Canada and allow breastfeeding in the House of Commons.

    In 2017 Ms Hillier told Sputnik the plan to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 was “pie in the sky” and was unlikely to be put to a vote.

    Eleanor Laing

    The Conservative MP for Epping Forest in Essex, Dame Eleanor Laing was very quick to throw her hat in the ring on Monday with a tweet.

    ​Laing, who was born in Scotland 61 years ago, has been an MP since 1997 but has kept a very low profile and done very little to grab the headlines.

    A big football fan and supporter of Glasgow Rangers, Laing is unlikely to be a moderniser like Hillier.

    In 2016 she criticised Tulip Siddiq, a heavily pregnant Labour MP, for leaving a debate to get something to eat. She told Siddiq her pregnancy was not an excuse.

    Pete Wishart

    The Scottish National Party has never had a Speaker in the House of Commons but Pete Wishart is planning on breaking the Labour/Tory stranglehold.

    It may seem perverse that Wishart wants to chair the workings of the UK Parliament when his party wants an independent Scotland which would not be part of the UK.

    Wishart, 57, is MP for Perth and North Perthshire but in his youth he was a musician and bass guitarist in Big Country, one of Scotland’s most famous bands.

    Chris Bryant

    Labour MP Chris Bryant would be the first openly gay Speaker.

    ​Bryant, 57, was ordained as a Christian minister in 1987 but left the priesthood four years later and was selected for the safe Labour seat of Rhondda in the Welsh valleys in 2000.

    Bryant was one of a number of Labour MPs who called on Tony Blair to step aside for Gordon Brown and was rewarded with ministerial jobs under Brown.

    Not a vocal supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, he presumably sees the Speaker’s job as one sure way of avoiding deselection.

    Sir Edward Leigh

    Something of a betting outsider in the race for Speaker is Sir Edward Leigh, the famously red-faced Tory MP for Gainsborough in Lincolnshire.

    ​Sir Edward, 69, is a government loyalist who says on his website: "The outrage about No Deal is bogus: the opposition could have voted for a deal three times, as indeed I did. Labour just wants to destroy the Government and bring in socialism, the SNP wants to destroy the Union, and the Lib Dems want to stop Brexit."

    Not a statement likely to endear him to opposition MPs, whose votes he will need.

     

     

     

     

     

    Tags:
    Harriet Harman, Conservative Party, Labour Party, Parliament, John Bercow, speaker
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