Washminster

Washminster
Washminster

Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Speaker's Constituency

There are two models os speakership. In the United States House of Representatives the "majoritarian model" has been long established. The Speaker comes from the party holding a majority of seats, and remains the key leader of that party. In the House of Commons the newly elected Speaker leaves their original party - and even after completing their service - remains as an independent. Most Speakers upon retirement take a seat in the House of Lords, and sit as a crossbencher. This model can be referred to as the "moderator speakership". [There is an excellent description of both, and a discussion of why the original moderator model adopted in the first Congress gave way to the current majoritarian model in "Masters of the House" by Roger Davidson; Susan Webb Hammond and Raymond W Smock].

While the British Speaker is no longer a member of a party, he (or she - Betty Boothroyd was Speaker from 1992 - 2000 - her "Autobiography" is an excellent read - and describes her experience working in Congress during the early 1960s!) - remains a Member of Parliament, representing his constituency. At election time a Speaker seeking to remain at Westminster stands as "The Speaker seeking re-election". It is said that there is a convention that Speakers are not opposed for re-election, but the reality is that they now usually face at least fringe candidates - and in 1974 Selwyn Lloyd faced both Labour and Conservative opponents in his Wirral constituency. Nationalist candidates have challenged George Thomas (1979) and Michael Martin (2001 & 2005). Speaker Bercow faced a very active and high profile campaign by UKIP this year - and another candidate, a former Tory MEP, overcame the UKIP campaign by gaining over 20% of the votes. Speaker Bercow failed to win a majority of votes (47.3% of votes cast). He had faced 10 opponents. Full results here.

Speaker Bercow's constituency is Buckingham - which is adjacent to Milton Keynes South, where I am a resident [Some of the Arriva buses in the city STILL have the UKIP election adverts on them!].  Once the Buckingham constituency covered Milton Keynes - Robert Maxwell was MP when the new city was created. Now it covers the county town and a large rural area. John Bercow maintains a website - reminding his constituents that he remains an active constituency MP, providing the same services as any ordinary MP would do (though it is thought that a Minister receiving a representation from Mr Speaker may give greater weight to it!).

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