The election of the Commons Speaker in 2009 saw party loyalty win out. In simple terms, most of John Bercow’s 221 votes in the penultimate round came from Labour, who had won 355 seats in the 2005 general election. Margaret Beckett, the other Labour MP in that round, won 70 votes.
George Young, who came second in the round, won 174 votes: the Conservatives had won 198 seats in 2005. The figures for the final round also help to spotlight the position. They were: Bercow 322, Young 271. (In retrospect, the latter did very well in gaining what was evidently at least 50 or so non-Tory votes.)
So an important question about the election of Bercow’s successor is: will it also break down on Party lines? After all, Labour MPs have propped him up in office, while most Tory MPs voted, in effect, to oust him in 2015.
As in 2009, that doesn’t necessarily suggest Tories voting for another Tory – the leading contenders from the blue corner perhaps being Eleanor Laing, a Deputy Speaker now, and Charles Walker. Some Conservatives might plump for another of the deputy speakers, Lindsay Hoyle.
Labour MPs, though, are more likely to plump for another “one of their own” – be that Rosie Winterton, the party’s former Chief Whip, or Harriet Harman, “the mother of the House”.
All in all, party is less likely to win out than prejudice, to use the word in its broadest sense. If MPs want a Continuity Bercow, they won’t vote for Hoyle, who would be more of an old-fashioned figure in the George Thomas mould. If they do, Harman seems to be the most likely beneficiary.
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