A new speaker for new times

First published on Progressonline in the Young progressives column

The public want to see parliament led by someone remarkably different from those who have gone before. Someone who can start afresh and develop a new parliamentary democracy without secrecy and complexity.

The prime minister described the Commons as working like an old gentleman’s club. This damning analysis of the status quo illustrates the need for the forum of the people to look and sound more like the British people and embrace openness and real transparency. It requires a modernity that the Scottish, Welsh and London devolved structures have enthused since their creation. It most of all demands a person of stature and standing who can symbolise the phoenix from the ashes.

I think there are a number of candidates who should not be over looked:

  • Lady Hermon – the last remaining Ulster Unionist MP, human rights lawyer and radical choice. She shares the views of many Labour members and was an ideal candidate for a Government of all the Talents. Her appointment would remove the remaining barrier to the UUP/Tory merger meaning she is likely to receive a number of Tory votes. More importantly she has a style and finesse that would be fitting of a new chapter in a traditional chamber.
  • John Bercow – the Conservative MP for Buckingham (where my mum now lives). The only Tory to truly embrace modernity and speak with conviction on equality issues. Strangely enough he is alienated from the Cameron machine but is a parliamentary enthusiast, regular attendee and both respectful of its past while being a generational leap and a new start. It would be fascinating to see how the Speakers Conference on diversity turns out under Speaker Bercow.
  • Ming Campbell – a statesmen in British politics, former party leader and well known by the public. He would bring a wisdom and expertise allowing him to hit the ground running, seize the agenda and ensure parliament can turn a new page.

I am sure there are plenty of others – people who know more than me name liberal-Tory and reformer Sir George Young. I am sure there are more of this ilk.

My Labour comrades will be first to point out that all these are from opposition parties. Many will argue that while we still hold a parliamentary majority we should unite behind a Labour candidate and “keep the position for ourselves”.

I do not believe this would wash with the public. Labour MPs have got to show unbelievable humility to parliament itself and place vital importance on the office of the Speaker. To re-appoint a Labour member would look to those outside the Westminster bubble as a political fix or a desperate attempt to protect the status quo.

There needs to be a clean break, a new start and fitting future for an institution too important to be fudged.


Richard Angell is parliamentary and equalities manager for Community Union and a former national chair of Young Labour


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