SKETCH: Deputy Speaker PLP Meeting

The candidates wanted the 1922 format with each of them being the only candidate in the room. This allows personal remarks to be made. Labour practice had them all in it together.

Simon Burns. Joked someone had said this was like a chicken in a fox house: “I think it’s more like a fox in a chicken house.”

Whichever way round, it was the wrong way.

He would cease to be partisan and so forth. Oversee the smooth running of Parliament, “like a football referee.” Brian Binley: “He’s stolen my line! That was my line!” That was better in than out.

Eleanor Laing. Passion for the place, make back benchers matter, executive too powerful, stand up for the rights of backbenchers. Standard fare. “Forgive me, I’m going to be very brief. If you aspire to hear your own voice you shouldn’t sit in the Speaker’s chair.” Brilliant line, well delivered, big round of applause.

Nadine Dorries: Attempted an anti-Tory pitch (it has worked before, but needs years of groundwork). One Labour MP commented: “The more she talked about how she didn’t ever really vote with her Party, the more we didn’t like her.”

“Many of you will remember that I was not John Bercow’s biggest fan before the election. But out of my great respect for the Chair, and realising how admired he was in the House, I went to see him and I apologised. I sought him out and I apologised to him. And since then, John and I have been the best of friends.” Sick bags all round.

Henry Bellingham: “Many of you will be looking at me and thinking that I’m an archetypal, typical Tory. Well, I’m very sorry to disappoint you. That’s exactly what I am.” Big laugh, surprisingly warm feelings. The authenticity principle working strongly.

His competence, his attention to detail, his punctuality, the importance of courtesy to colleagues, that he wouldn’t guard the speaker’s list as though it contained the nuclear codes (laughter). “The reason why Lindsay Hoyle is so popular amongst Tories is because he is courteous.” He said that he will work with the Speaker’s team but that he will stand up to him in private if he has disagreements with him. Surprise contender!

Gary Streeter read the job description from some Procedure Committee report. It had things like “must have a sense of humour” and should serve on the Chairman’s Panel. “I have in the past shadowed the one-and-only Clare Short. Doctors say I will make a full recovery!” (Quiet groans).

His time on the Home Affairs select committee allowed him to learn the dark arts of chairmanship from Keith Vaz. Ouch! No, no, no. Not in front of Labour.

He said he had no ambition to be Speaker, that he was friendly and sympathetic and sat down.

Brian Binley told us that he heard the Prime Minister might vote for him. Didn’t get the laugh he had hoped for and he followed it with “I didn’t expect that. I really didn’t, I can tell you.” Then he turned on Burns for stealing his football joke “Glad you liked it, Simon.” Some glaring.

Time as a Co-op bank manager where he learned the most important skill for a Deputy Speaker and that was man-management. He said it again. “What about women?” a shout from the back. Brian hadn’t heard him and said it again. The room folded its arms.

Then: “No-one has mentioned Nigel. Well, I will because it’s the reason we are all here. And it’s a lesson for all of us. Anyone with a profile is vulnerable and that’s why we all have to defend him. If he’s acquitted, and I pray to the Almighty that he is, I would step aside. Defending Nigel is defending all of us because you never know when something will smack you in the face.” He sat down, campaign slumped.

David Amess. Walked in late. “The last time I was here we were counting a ballot and my candidate got one less vote than there were people on his campaign team.” Good sort of laughter.

“Colleagues, if you want a lady, I can’t help you. They are both excellent and will make excellent Deputy Speakers. But if your mind is open then I could tell you that I have been inundated with phone calls and letters begging me to stand, or I could tell you the truth.” More laughter.

“The fact is, I really fancy this job, I wouldn’t mind the salary and I’d love the prestige that goes with it. And I’d love to sit on that green chair bossing you all around.” (So much laughter he had to pause.)

“Colleagues, I know my limitations. I don’t like pomposity, bullying or cruelty. And for those of you who don’t like me, think of the prize: never to hear me droning on again or making a partisan speech!”

Performance rating: 1. Henry Bellingham 2. Eleanor Laing 3. David Amess .

This is not to say the vote will go that way.

Hustings at 12.45.




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