I have to admit to being a little disappointed in the contest for the Speakership of the House of Commons. Nobody has really grabbed me (metaphorically) by the scruff of the neck and convinced me they are going to be the great reformer the Commons needs. The report of the hustings to me suggested that none of the candidates have many big ideas and that all are hamstrung by the conception that the role is something like that of a union rep for back-bench MP’s.
John Bercow missed a trick by starting what could have been a fruitful debate about increasing MP’s basic salary by naming a rather stupendous figure of £100,000 and he along with others are now mired in the expenses mess. One of the huge problems the role suffers from is it is actually an adjunct to a already-ended front bench role or something you want to do when you have reconciled yourself in your inner mental universe to never having one. At least that is how it looks to me; and this is a problem in that it end’s being filled and contested on an ‘also-ran’ mentality. Radically, I would suggest there might be a legitimate case for opening-up the field; if you want somebody to keep MP’s in line this scarcely seems the best way to do it by selecting from amoung their own.
Also, in practice your powers are pretty neatly curtailed by the whims and wishes of the three party leaders and their attendant whipping apparatus. This was the real tragedy of the Martin case and to my mind he was more than a little entitled to be peeved he was taking all the flak for the misdeeds of the entire Commons. He certainly didn’t help his own case but that shouldn’t be allowed to detract from the reality of a situation he cannot be reasonably expected to shoulder vast swathes of culpability for.