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John Bercow's critics to challenge his role as Speaker

18 May 10 06:46 GMT
By James Landale
Deputy political editor

John Bercow is set to become the first Speaker in living memory to have his re-appointment challenged by a vote in the House of Commons.

Normally incumbent speakers are "re-elected" unanimously without the need for the Commons to divide.

But a handful of MPs are determined to force a vote on Tuesday so they can voice their objections to Mr Bercow and allow the Commons to express a view.

MPs have not voted out an incumbent Speaker for 175 years.

The last was Speaker Manners-Sutton, an old Etonian high Tory opposed to political reform, who was ousted in 1835 by a Whig-dominated parliament determined to push through radical change.

Ayes vs Noes

After lunch on Tuesday, at about 1430 BST, the august figure of Sir Peter Tapsell MP will rise to his feet.

Sir Peter is Father of the House of Commons, a role he has assumed because he is now the MP who has been in Parliament for the longest unbroken period, in his case since 1966.

In this role, he is in charge when there is no Speaker and it is he who will ask Mr Bercow if he is willing to stand again.

In a moment of rare brevity, Mr Bercow will indicate that he would be honoured to continue to serve and remain in his sumptuous lodgings beneath Parliament's clock tower.

The former Conservative Defence Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, will then make the case for Mr Bercow to stay put.

When Sir Malcolm has said his piece, Sir Peter will put the motion "that John Bercow do take the chair of this House as Speaker".

There will be many shouts of "aye" but a handful of MPs will shout "no". They will include people like the Conservative MP Nadine Dorries and the Labour MP Kate Hoey.

Mr Bercow's opponents object to his decision to ditch some of the Speaker's ceremonial dress, his wife's pro-Labour messages on Twitter, and what they claim is his lack of authority, respect and impartiality in the House.

No whip

Some Labour MPs believe he has failed to defend them and others from the new expenses regime which they consider to be harsh and unfair, particularly to those with young children. Some MPs also believe the new House should have the right to choose a new Speaker.

There are some MPs who hope that Sir Peter will ignore the "noes" if they are too few and too quiet. But most expect that Sir Peter will have no choice but to call a division.

John Bercow has his opponents, but he will win. Why?

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