Monday, 17 January 2011

When you think about it, the Speaker's an irrelevance.


Any given group of people will – in their debates and discussions – tend to focus on the things that are of direct personal concern. And our politicians are no different in this respect. Councillors indulge in vigorous debate about the precise structure of scrutiny panels, the details of how we arrive at an upper chamber (and who gets the particular sinecures therein) a great contention and members of parliament think that the speaker of the House of Commons is important. And that the public might be remotely interested in what those MPs think of him and, indeed, what he might think of them.

And – in a truly joyous twist to this irrelevance – the Speaker’s Wife (I’ve capitalised it as I think she sees it as some kind of official and therefore important position) has weighed in:

The wife of Commons Speaker John Bercow has accused Conservative MPs of running a "whispering campaign" against him. Sally Bercow said many in the party could not accept he had been elected to the role "fair and square".

Mr Bercow, himself an ex-Tory MP, has had several run-ins with former colleagues unhappy at their treatment. But Mrs Bercow told Sky News such rows were "ridiculous" and that her husband was not biased towards Labour but "on the side of backbenchers".

A sorry tale for sure – backed up as it is with terrible tales of certain backbenchers “not being called” by Mr Bercow, of confrontations in corridors and of sleights and snubbing. I feel so sad for those MPs having such a terrible, terrible man overseeing them. Except for one simple fact – the Speaker is not important. Not in the slightest. All he does is decide who speaks and doesn’t speak on the floor of the House and oversees the rather messy system of discipline for MPs. To us out in the real world he is little more than a curiosity, a ceremonial position of almost no significance.

Just like us councillors discussing the membership of committees or arguing about who does or doesn’t get to speak in a debate, the matter of how parliament orders its business matters little. There’s no indication – for example – that it alters the manner in which the business is conducted and it certainly doesn’t change the nature of parliament’s decisions. Yet MPs – because the Speaker matters to them – get all agitated, pompous and self-righteous about the position.

Frankly the whole debate is ridiculous. But then I just spent best part of an hour talking about what time we should hold Council meetings so maybe I’ve no room to talk!


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