Friday, June 19, 2009

The next Speaker

Choosing the next Speaker is always a great responsibility but, in the current climate of hatred and suspicion of MPs, it is particularly important that we get the right person this time.

Current favourite, according to the Bookies, is John Bercow and he is the person I am publicly backing. In less tumultuous times I would probably have supported Sir Alan Beith or even Sir George Young as both would be capable of doing the job and performing their duties with a certain amount of distinction.

Sadly, we live in troubled times. The stock of Parliament is at an all time low and MPs are not held in high esteem. The Public is, quite rightly, angry and it will be a long time until trust is restored.

Unfortunately, some of the candidates who would normally have been favourites have very much been part of the establishment. They have had an opportunity to demonstrate their reforming zeal but so far have not made the best of it. I am not convinced that these parliamentary leopards can change their spots overnight.

I firmly believe that we need someone with drive, energy and passion for change and that is why I am supporting John Bercow. He has made no secret of the right wing views of yesteryear but there are any number of politicians whose views have changed with time. It has been interesting to witness his metamorphosis and see his views shift and I realised just how much he had changed when he resigned his front bench position over a matter of principle. His tendency to take up neglected causes from time to time has not always made him the flavour of the month with some of his Conservative colleagues but this is exactly why I think he is a good choice and it is noticeable that some of the 2005 intake are supporting him.

Make no mistake, the old guard do not want him because they know that he will do his utmost to drag parliament kicking and screaming into the 21st Century and he will work hard to connect Parliament with the people. There are still too many MPs who think that change should be measured, that the real problem is the public who don't understand and who want to preserve Westminster as some sort of elite closed shop.

JOhn gets the public anger and understands the need to connect with the public. He also understands the need for Parliament to have greater ability to hold the Government to account and has been the only candidate to proactively deal with the gender issues.

As a woman I would have loved to have felt able to vote for Margaret Beckett who has always been competent in her Ministerial roles. But, a reformer she is not. She voted against the Robin Cook reforms and has no recorded appetite for reforming Parliament for the better. She is almost seamlessly woven into the fabric of the place and this is why she has been gathering support from some of the Senior Labour Whips and the Tory old guard.

John also has a deep knowledge of parliamentary procedure because he has been one of its most effective performers. I just hope that there are enough MPs who realise the need to put the past behind us, be bold and make John Bercow our next Speaker.