Iain Dale reports that Ming Campbell is to throw his hat into the ring if and when the ‘Noes’ challenge the Speaker’s confirmation this afternoon.
This changes the dynamics of the situation greatly, Ming is respected across the benches, and unquestionably has the gravitas and dignity which would bring credit to the house. As a former silk he has the ability and authority to command respect, whereas John Bercow has on a number of occasions been on the edge of losing control of the House. The Squeaker certainly has lost self control.
People forget that Ming was one of twelve candidates for the position of Speaker when Betty Boothroyd stood down in 2000, but he lost out to Michael Martin. The House of Commons might have cause to regret that decision and may be minded to seize this second chance. Ming has one other great unspoken factor in his favour.
He isn’t John Bercow.
UPDATE : The betting has opened with Bercow heavily favoured to retain the Speakership.
With the support of only 3 members sitting on the benches of the next governing party never in living memory has a new speaker so divided the house. Already the drum beat has started to undermine him. Don’t get Guido wrong, there is good reason to be wary of Speaker Bercow.
He is the candidate of a party on the way out. Like a drunk being thrown out of the pub they have spat on the floor before they got thrown out the door. Bercow is disliked intensely by those who know him best, the longer you have known him, the less you like him. He was championed by Julian Lewis, who fought a dubious and disingenuous campaign against the public finding out about house flipping by MPs. In the run up to his election Bercow called for a 60% pay increase for MPs. These are not good omens.
Putting aside Guido’s personal animosity, there are some good things to be said for Bercow. No one doubts his energy or his ability to articulate his views. They are not things that could be said for the last Speaker.
There is no point undermining him before we see how he actually performs in the job. There is now an opportunity for a great reforming Speaker to drive through reforms that regain for parliament the ability to hold the government to account and in check. Bercow has been elected on a manifesto promising to modernise procedures, strengthen democratic oversight of the government and make parlaiment more transparent. If he sets the course for great reform let him keep his job. If he fails, the next parliament should not hesitate to find someone else who can do the job.
UPDATE : Dale reminds Guido that Bercow promised that any minister who made an announcement to the media instead of the House first would be called to explain himself before parliament. Watch out for that, Guido’s money is on Ed Balls doing it first. Wonder what will happen if Mandelson does it…
Cover by Holly, aged 17, in memory of her great, grandfather.
Outside Downing Street: