UK Politics

Hoyle wins: MPs go for safety first option in race to succeed narcissistic Bercow

BY Iain Martin | tweet iainmartin1   /  4 November 2019

MPs met to choose a successor to John Bercow today, and fittingly for the 2015-2017 parliament (think of it as the long-winded parliament) the process was laborious. The show dragged on for hour after hour after hour before a winner emerged.

After several rounds of voting it came down to a run off between the favourite Lindsay Hoyle and relative youngster Chris Bryant. In the final round of voting MPs gave it to Hoyle, the down to earth deputy Speaker with a Northern English heritage and a plain-speaking manner. Hoyle won 325 to 213.

It looked to me, from the press gallery, as though Hoyle triumphed because he persuaded an alliance of MPs across the two main parties that he will in unshowy style restore the impartiality of the office after the horrors of the Bercow era.

During his decade in charge the outgoing Speaker not only spoke more than any of his predecessors, in a trademark grating headmaster bullying the weaker boys style. Worse, the last couple of years of his tenure were defined by the controversial decisions he took that facilitated serial attempts to block Brexit. Bercow denies doing this. Tory MPs and those Labour MPs who want the 2016 referendum result honoured emit a hollow laugh on hearing such denials.

There is a tragic side to the Bercow story too. His speakership had two phases, the first positive. When he took on the role in 2009, at the height of the expenses crisis, he stabilised the situation and restored the reputation of the chair when parliament was held in extremely low esteem by voters. It was just as bad as it is now.

This first phase was the era of Bercow the reformer who ensured that the executive could be held to account more effectively than had been the case for some time. Ministers were summoned and reminded of their obligations to Parliament. Backbench MPs were encouraged.

In the second phase, Bercow appeared to drive himself into ever greater paroxysms of excitement at the sound of his own voice. Brexit, and the chance to make himself the story, supercharged his decline.

Anyway, good riddance to bad rubbish.

This election to choose his successor was overseen by the Father of the House, of course. Ken Clarke was made for the moment. Once upon a time Clarke could have become Prime Minister but for his rampant Europhilia that put off many Tory MPs and Conservative party members. Now he has acquired listed status and MPs enjoyed saying farewell today to someone widely regarded as a national treasure.


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