Monday, July 19, 2010

Should Speaker Bercow have no tongue to speak?

In my weaker moments I still enjoy watching both the debates and question times from parliament. Those who do so regularly will know that the most regular feature of any session in the Commons is the sight of the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, having a go at MPs for questions (and answers) that are "too long". At the beginning this seemed like a great idea for getting through more questions. However, Speaker Bercow seems to mistake a good session with one where the maximum number of MPs speak. "We've heard enough," he snapped at one LibDem MP recently.

Speaker Bercow is on very thin ice. The job of the Speaker is not the "lead" the Commons, let alone dictate to it. He would do well to remember what Speaker Lenthall once said: "I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here."

It seems that Speaker Bercow is running the place as he sees fit rather than representing the views of the House - both sides of the chamber. The sight of him determining how long an MP's question should be is wrong, so long as it's one question and doesn't constitute a speech!

In fact, Speaker Bercow does do rather a lot of Speaking really including pontificating on what the public would or would not like to see. What qualifies him for this role?

He is there to run the place smoothly and ensure the rules are kept to - not to control the debate and questions in his tight-fisted way. Maybe he'll loosen up as time goes on, but if I were an MP being cut off from asking a question it would make me wonder what agenda the Speaker really has and if really is the man to preside over the Commons.

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