Sunday, 12 July 2009

Jobs for the boys

It's too soon to judge what difference John Bercow will make as Speaker of the Commons, but there have already been a couple of developments. Firstly, he's announced that there will be elections for Deputy Speakers. I don't know what the current system is for anointing Deputies - I assume it's either in the gift of the Speaker, or the whips/ party leaders. At the moment the posts are held by Sir Alan Haselhurst (Con), Sir Michael Lord (Con), and Sylvia Heal (Lab) - the convention is that it's a balanced ticket between the Government and the Opposition, and the current balance is of course a legacy from when Michael Martin, a former Labour MP, was Speaker.

Deputies are subject to the same restrictions as the Speaker - i.e. they don't speak in debates, or vote - but there's not the same convention that opposition parties shouldn't stand against them at the General Election and they can return to being 'normal' MPs if they stop being deputies. The current word is that Sir Michael Lord will head 'upstairs' to the Lords, although I don't now if this would be now, necessitating a by-election, or at the next General. I would expect Sir Alan to be re-elected should he choose to stand again, as he's a popular figure, as is Sylvia. No suggestion yet of other names in the frame, but I'd expect a Lib Dem to come forward (who'd have to go head to head with Sir Alan, as the new Speaker is a Tory, even if most Tories regard him as having left the fold many years ago!) And we'll be looking for another Labour name, but I've no idea who would be interested. Of those who ran for Speaker, Parmjit has ruled himself out, and I don't think Margaret Beckett would be keen either.

The other noticeable development from Bercow is the granting of requests for urgent questions. We've had three or four in the past few weeks, since he took up post, which is more than I can remember for many months, if not years. This is good, it makes Parliament far more responsive to current events. They only last for about 20 minutes, but they're a useful device.

Last week, for example, Evan Harris MP put in an urgent question on the News of the World phone-tapping/ Coulson affair (can anyone come up with anything better than Coulsongate?) Slightly bizarre scenario, in that the question was answered by David Hanson, the Justice Minister, on behalf of the Government, whereas obviously the people who should have been answering were sitting squirming on the Tory front bench. Tricky for Bercow, in that the rule is usually that questions should be aimed at the Government minister, and questions about Opposition words or deeds are quashed with the mantra that 'Opposition policy is not a matter for the Minister' but it would have been nonsensical to have dealt with this particular issue without calling into question Cameron's judgment and whether or not Coulson should remain in post. Backbenchers got round this by, for example, asking whether it was appropriate for Coulson to have a parliamentary pass and whether he should be suspended from having one whilst an investigation is carried out.

As I'm on the subject of Cameron's loyalty to his pals, it's interesting to note what's being said about the set-up of Cameron's 'West Wing' should the country take leave of its senses and elect a Tory Government at the next election. Apparently they're going to knock through No. 10 and No. 11 (metaphorically, if not literally) and Dave and George are going to have offices next to each other. The role of Chief Sec to the Treasury is going to be substantially beefed up, so that a lot of the Chancellor's work passes to him or her. (Actually, let's just make that him - chances of it being a woman are slim to non-existent!) So basically the Chancellor - or Obsorne, as this is designed purely for his benefit - is going to be freed up to play more of a role as a political strategist, as he does now, and leave someone else to the tedious business of running the economy. He has of course recently admitted that he spends only 40% of his time on economics and seems to think that's rather a lot. Is this, I ask myself, because Cameron so values Osborne's advice on political strategy, or is it because he doesn't think he's quite cut out to be Chancellor? And in either case, wouldn't it simply be better not to appoint him Chancellor in the first place, and get someone in who can and wants to do the job?


Catosays said...

Gee whiz, you really are the most tedious, boring oaf of a woman I've ever come across!

But then, you probably know that already.

Why don't you get down to Wootton Bassett and pay some respects to brave men?

Grace Fletcher-Hackwood said...

I'd say that your comment itself was tedious and boring, but surely using both synonyms is redundant?

Anonymous said...

What exactly does defence or Afghanistan have to do with the issue she raised?

Non sequitur much?

Claire said...

Lack of constructive insight aside, I don't think a comment that is prefaced with "Gee whiz" is likely to cause Ms McCarthy too many sleepless nights.

Vincenzo Rampulla said...

Kerry, I think that Bercow is doing really well at the moment. I hope it is the start of big, amazing changes to strengthen our democracy.

Catosays sounds like a miserable old man. Cato-fail!

Bevanite said...

Catosays, if you feel so strongly I'm wondering why you bother reading, and commenting on her blog then?
So gee whiz, it looks like you may be the dull one. But I wouldnt dare comment, as that's just rude. And doesn't really do much now does it?

CllrTim said...

I hope the anonymous right-wing blogger community was well represented at todays memorial too.

Thanks to the NHS they can often be allowed out of their secure accomodation with support.

I cannot believe anyone peddling the kind of rabid fascist warmongery that I read on Catosays blog dare chastise anyone about respect for brave fighting men and women.

Mick Swales said...

Tedious and boring? I note Catosays lists Fiendish Sudoku and Flyfishing among his 'interests'. Hmm.

Man in the Street said...

What about 'our boys' in Afghanistan Kerry?

Are you proud of your prime minster and his cabinet?

Is Gordon giving the troops his undivided attention?

Man in the Street said...

What's the problem Kerry?

Twittering is much easier isn't it!

Man in the Street said...

Did you spot a single politician in Wootton Bassett today Kerry?

Did you hell, they would have been lynched, deservedly so.

btw - not far from you in Bristol or London really is it? It's on the M4 corridor. How about it? Put your face where you and your party's mouth is. I dare you.

... Too busy twattering probably - all 168 characters worth of the best this country has to offer. Shame on you.

Terence said...

Although not tuned in to you politically, I believe you write with a delicious touch. You certainly don't merit the disrespectful comments displayed above.

Man in the Street said...

Bevanite said "... if you feel so strongly I'm wondering why you bother reading, and commenting on her blog then?"

So people who disagree shouldn't post here. How principled, how very New Labour. Drown out the opposition with faux disdain, yes, that's the way to do it.

Is this blog just a circle jerk fest for similar types?

Man in the Street said...

Terence said "...I believe you write with a delicious touch."

What the hell do mean with that post? You fancy Kerry, you are hungry or something else as meaningless.

Please enlighten me.

Man in the Street said...

Any comments re. your Prime Minister's performance recently, and in general?

Man in the Street said...

Are you going to publish my reply to your train 'saga'?

Kerry said...

No - it was predictable tosh. And the other two were racist, from what I recall.

Catosays said...

My but haven't the Socialist trolls come out in force to defend their beloved Kerry.

Well, were you in Wootton Bassett? Were there any politicians in Wootton Bassett?

You were probably too busy helping Somali pirates to be giving support to 18 year old soldiers who were sent to die by your Boss!

And to those who took the trouble to visit my blog...thank you. And is there something inherently wrong with fly-fishing or should I be out there selling Big Issue with you?

Man in the Street said...

It was not predictable tosh and the other two were not racist. Your powers of recall are terrible.

You just don't like to admit your beloved party is rotten to the core along with the country.

Anonymous said...

Agree that Bercow is doing some good things. I'm also really glad he's trying to make PMQs less of a national disgrace than it is at the minute. It's a shame though that so many MPs tried to shout him down yesterday when he tried to get them to sit quietly (I'm told they were mostly Tories). They showed him up, and probably thought they had won some sort of a victory... but I think the public watching PMQs that day were probably thinking "my 6 year old will sit quietly when told to..."

Roadkill said...

Can't believe these personalised comments.. stick to the issues guys