THE ROLE OF THE SPEAKER
The Somerset Guardian, 11th September 2019
This week, the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, announced that he will stand down at the next general election.
The role of Speaker is virtually as old as Parliament itself. The earliest year an administrative officer was documented is 1258 when Peter de Montfort presided over the Parliament assembled in Oxford.
The role of the Speaker is important for the smooth running of both Chambers. In the Commons they oversee the House's debates, determining which Members can speak and are responsible for maintaining order during debates. They also have the ability to penalise Members who break the rules.It is imperative that the Speaker is non-partisan and relinquishes all affiliation with their former political party when in office and beyond. Moreover, the Speaker should not take part in debates or vote, carrying out bureaucratic and procedural functions instead.
Whilst I have long-admired the Speaker for his knowledge and understanding of Parliamentary procedure and the constitution, regrettably his impartiality has been questioned which has made his role more difficult. In an unusual move and prior to his resignation, the Conservative Party decided to field a candidate against Mr. Bercow at the next election, reflecting some serious concerns.
The position of Speaker wields great power, which is why they must remain resolutely neutral to facilitate proceedings in a fair and legitimate way. Enabling political agendas or blocking the priority of government business is not in accordance with precedent. Speakers are the umpires and must remain unmoved by their personal feelings or opinions, otherwise the integrity of Parliament will be cast into doubt and in tandem, the public's trust in politicians falls further.