Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Monday, 22 June 2009

John Bercow should stamp his authority on the Commons quickly

So John Bercow is now the Speaker of the House of Commons. I am still unsure whether they have made the right choice but he could do a few things in his early days to help answer that question.

The first thing he should do is make Gordon Brown actually answer the questions at PMQs. For far too long we have had to put up with either blatant side-stepping usually involving a variation on accusing the questioner of not asking important questions of policy. And then when questions on policy are asked we uaually get a load of tractor manufacturing statistics and distorted nonsense about what the questioner would do. This needs to change and the time to do it is straight away. I suspect Cameron won't like this because it will not bode well for him being able to pull the same tricks in a year's time but it must happen anyway.

Secondly he should stop all the stupid barracking and heckling from all sides. It is childish and really turns people off politics. Questions and answers should be heard properly and MPs who make noise when others are speaking should be ejected from the chamber.

Thirdly he must put a stop to ministers announcing policies outside the Commons and/or leaking or trailing the information beforehand so that the Commons is the last to hear it. The Speaker must have the power to enforce the old principle of the House hearing first.

There are many other changes that need to come but if we see proper movement in these areas then we will know we are moving in the right direction.


Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

Bercow will do well to overcome the disadvantages bestowed by the circumstances that created the Speakership vacancy and will do brilliantly to meet the ridiculously high expectations that seem to be commonly accepted as now existing, fulfilment of which would require powers well beyond those of the office.

On one of your specific points, John Redwood blogs (inter alia) as follows:

"The Commons needs to insist on Ministers making statements to the House first. A strong Speaker would make this a number one issue. Once again, however, the tyranny of the majority means that unless the Speaker can mobilise backbench Labour MPs as well as the rest of us, this can only be achieved by persuading the government."

Parliament badly needs a successful Speaker. If Bercow is not he, then Parliament will be even further diminished.

Voter said...

I agree with all three of your points.

I hope that the Speaker has some latitude to get the PM to answer questions.

My memory suggests that ever since 1979, PMs have tried to duck the more difficult ones.

One mark of a strong leader is the ability to answer questions.

Mr Clegg could set an example here and set up his own question time to answer difficult questions from the press and others. Of course, he may not feel it is worth the risk.