The House of Commons is preparing to choose its new Speaker today – with seven hopefuls trying to win over ‘the most duplicitous electorate in the world’.
MPs will vote on a replacement for John Bercow, who departed last week after a controversial decade in the chair, in what promises to be a fiendishly tactical contest.
Deputy Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is the hot favourite to emerge victorious. But even Sir Lindsay’s allies admit the outcome is incredibly difficult to predict, with multiple rounds of secret ballots.
Fellow Labour MPs Chris Bryant and Harriet Harman, and Tory Eleanor Laing are putting in strong challenges.
The other would-be Speakers are Labours’ Dame Rosie Winterton and Meg Hillier, plus Conservative Sir Edward Leigh. An eighth hopeful, Shailesh Vara, dropped out this morning and endorsed Sir Lindsay.
One MP joked that around 1,100 pledges of support had been offered to candidates by the 650 members of the Commons.
Deputy Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (pictured) is the hot favourite to emerge victorious. But even Sir Lindsay’s allies admit the outcome is incredibly difficult to predict
Fellow Labour MPs Chris Bryant (left) and Harriet Harman (right) are putting in strong challenges for the top job
Who are the MPs battling it out for the Speaker’s chair?
Sir Lindsay Hoyle
The Labour MP for Chorley, Sir Lindsay is the favourite, and considered a safe pair of hands after serving as John Bercow’s deputy for nearly a decade.
The 62-year-old has attracted significant support from across the House, including Tory Brexiteers. He is unlikely to have any truck with the constitutional ‘innovations’ of the Bercow era.
Labour former frontbencher Mr Bryant has emerged as potentially the biggest threat to Sir Lindsay.
The 57-year-old has served on the ruling Commons Commission, and was deeply involved in the campaign for the multi-billion pound restoration and renewal of Parliament.
He has been backed by senior Tories including Michael Gove.
Ms Harman, the longest-serving woman MP in the House, is supported by many female politicians.
However, the 69-year-old’s background as a former deputy Labour leader and politically-correct reputation might inhibit her chances of the top job.
Few Tories are behind her – and if it looks like she is in with a shot, they could pile behind Sir Lindsay to ensure she is defeated.
Dame Eleanor Laing
Dame Eleanor, 61, was another of the deputy Speakers under Mr Bercow.
During the campaign, the Tory MP has been critical of his record, saying the House requires an independent referee.
However, it is unclear whether she will be able to command enough Labour support to take on the front runners.
Sir Edward Leigh
A veteran Tory Brexiteer who was first elected to the House of Commons in 1983, Sir Edward is standing on a pledge to be the opposite kind of speaker to Mr Bercow.
Sir Edward said that ‘as the Italians say, a thin pope always follows a fat one’ and that he believes ‘maybe a little bit of boring is just what the doctor ordered’.
He chaired the influential Public Accounts Committee for almost a decade from 2001 to 2010. Despite his experience in Westminster the 69-year-old is viewed as an unlikely winner in today’s contest.
The current chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee wants to be speaker to crack down on Parliament’s bullying problem.
She said during a speaker hustings event that there are ‘too many heartbreaking stories’ about abuse and harassment in Westminster and that if she wins she will devote her time to improving it as a place to work.
She has been the MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch since 2005 and served as a junior minister in Gordon Brown’s Labour government. She is believed to only have an outside chance of victory.
First elected as the Labour MP for Doncaster Central in 1997, the parliamentary veteran served as the party’s chief whip from 2010 until 2016.
She was then elected as one of three deputy speakers in June 2017 and now wants the top job.
She has pledged to be a ‘stabilising, unifying Speaker’ after Mr Bercow’s lengthy tenure which she described as ‘not without controversy’.
Nominations for the powerful job must be filed by 10.30am, with support needed from at least 12 MPs to enter the ballot.
The Commons will meet as normal at 2.30pm and each candidate will give a speech – the order decided by drawing lots.
Speaker hopeful woos MPs with promise of a Commons cat
House of Commons will get a cat to tackle the problem of mice, one of the candidates standing today in the election to replace John Bercow as speaker has pledged.
Labour MP Chris Bryant said he would bring in the feline as the infestation of the rodents has got worse despite a £111,000-a-year pest control bill.
Mr Bryant is considering naming the cat after a previous speaker, such as Onslow, Addington or Fitzroy.
It has also been suggested he get two cats called Erskine and May – after the bible of parliamentary procedure Erskine May.
Battersea Dogs and Cats home has previously offered to supply a cat to Parliament, but the idea was rejected by officials on health and safety grounds.
MPs, peers and staff complain that mice are regularly seen in Parliament’s canteens and even run across desks. The problem has been fuelled by a huge programme of building and restoration work.
In a report published earlier this year, senior officials blamed the ‘proximity of the Houses of Parliament to the River Thames, as well as to Westminster Tube Station’ for making the buildings ‘particularly vulnerable to pests, especially to mice’.
A secret ballot among MPs will take place once the speeches have concluded.
MPs can only vote for one candidate and the result will be announced in the chamber.
Any candidate who receives more than 50 per cent of the votes will be proposed to the House as Speaker, although MPs will be asked to vote again if no candidate meets the threshold.
In the second round of voting, candidates who either came last or received fewer than 5 per cent of the votes will not be on the ballot paper.
There is also a 10-minute period after each round for candidates to withdraw.
Ballots will continue until either one MP wins more than 50 per cent of the votes or only one remains.
A motion is then put to the Commons proposing the winner as Speaker and they will take the chair if this is agreed. If not, a vote takes place.
Speeches of congratulation are expected to follow the votes.
Mr Bercow departed the Speaker’s chair on October 31.
The 56-year-old entered Parliament in 1997 and held several shadow ministerial positions before taking the Speaker’s chair on June 22 2009, promising to serve ‘no more than nine years in total’.
He abandoned that commitment ahead of the 2017 snap election, but allegations of bullying by former members of his staff, denied by the Speaker, led to fresh calls for him to quit.
He caused fury by twisting rules in the chamber to help Remainer MPs take on the government’s Brexit policy.
Mr Bercow formalised his departure from the Commons today by becoming ‘Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead’.
That is the traditional way of standing down as an MP, as they are not allowed to resign from office directly.
Mr Bercow (pictured) departed the Speaker’s chair on October 31 after a controversial decade