Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
On the 9th September, my MP, John Bercow, announced his resignation from the post of Speaker and stated that he would step down on 31st October, the Brexit deadline. When I heard this, I was relieved. I thought that finally, Buckingham might have some representation in Parliament.
Due to archaic convention, the main political parties do not field a candidate against the Speaker at General Elections. This means that at the last General Election, Bercow was virtually unopposed with only an independent candidate, UKIP and the Green Party standing against him.
With so little choice, is it any wonder that he netted 65% of the vote? Although this may suggest that constituents are happy with the status quo, the fact is that many people vote for Bercow simply because they feel they have no other choice, as no matter who they vote for he will be re-elected. The rise in spoilt ballot papers in Buckingham from 1,289 in 2015 to 1,967 in 2017 shows not only that people are discontented with the current situation, but that they are becoming even more so.
In both of those General Elections, Buckingham had the most spoiled ballots of any UK constituency. This shows the extent of peoples’ frustration about their lack of choice and that they feel like they have no proper representation in Parliament as the Speaker is unable to vote unless it is to break a deadlock. At the last General Election, there was even a petition that called on MPs to reform the role of Speaker which suggested that the Speaker, when elected, should resign their seat. This would trigger a by-election allowing constituents to elect another MP, who would be properly able to represent them in Parliament.
Although this proposed reform to the role of Speaker is no longer relevant to Buckingham in the wake of Bercow’s resignation, I believe that it should still be implemented because otherwise there will just be another constituency where the voters are robbed of choice. Also, the fact that the Conservatives announced their plan to field a candidate to run against Bercow at the next election shows that they are willing to break with convention when it comes to the role of the Speaker. However, this was due to Bercow’s lack of neutrality when it came to Brexit rather than because they believe the role needs to be reformed.
Hopefully, Bercow’s recent partisanship has made MPs question the role and powers of the Speaker which could lead to reform. For instance, he stated he would do everything in his power to stop Britain leaving the EU without a deal and has been spotted behind the wheel of a car with a ‘Bollocks to Brexit‘ sticker. If the Speaker cannot follow the rules set out for him, then we should reform them.