Parliament in Peril – The Speakership of John Bircow

Politicians of all parties, and indeed the party political system itself, are increasingly held in contempt by the general public. British institutions are based on conventions and gentleman’s agreements, and it is the lack of respect of these that is souring public perceptions of their ‘honourable’ members of Parliament. When politicians stop behaving like gentlemen (and of course ladies) the whole system feels the negative impact. The respect enjoyed by speakers of the House of Commons is based on such convention. Since the Commons cannot function without a Speaker it is important that the conventions in relation to the Speaker’s neutrality be adhered to and respected.

Calling Time

In much the same way as the Monarch is supposed to be above the squalor of party politics, so is the Speaker. The Speaker’s recent comments on significant political issues undermine both the role of Speaker and the integrity of Parliament itself.

If the Speaker is allowed to get away with such a blatant breach of the rules, a breach that has now happened at least twice, then will Her Majesty the Queen be given the freedom to speak out directly on political issues. Will she be allowed to openly condemn politicians who she believes deserve such public rebuke?

Furthermore, since the current Speaker can no longer be regarded as a neutral arbitrator, will the convention of not standing against the Speaker at General Elections continue? Is the Speaker now merely another politician putting his own personal interest before the broader public interest? Could it be argued that the current Speaker has made it impossible for him to perform his own role?

We already have a dangerous situation in which the result of public votes are not respected, which has implications for all future elections and indeed the future of democratic governance in the UK. We also have the mainstream press regarded with suspicion due to them aggressively spinning news stories in order to make it meet the needs of vested interests – the production’Fake News’ to use the current linguistic fad. The future of the House of Lords is also now in grave doubt which adds to the current political instability. The Speaker’s remarks are Constitutionally significant and represent a deepening Constitutional Crisis!

The Speaker should recognise that he has done damage to the already weakened institution of Parliament. As such, he should now do what convention demands, he should behave like a gentlemen, he should behave like an Honourable Member of Parliament – he should step down, his personality is obviously not suitable to the demands of the role of Speaker.