This Deputy Speaker election is going to be fun

4 Oct 2013 at 21:30

Just as things were getting rather dull in politics, my old mate Simon Burns resigns a junior transport minister to throw his hat in the ring to replace poor old Nigel Evans as a Deputy Speaker. Nigel is one of the most decent people that I know and I really hope that he will be acquitted of the charges brought against him.

This little election has everything that anyone interested in politics relishes. Malice, intrigue and madness. The malice is the wonderful grudge match Burns has with Speaker Bercow, “a stupid sanctimonious dwarf”. The intrigue, Eleanor Laing (another contender) has had to deny that she is Cameron’s favourite candidate. I wonder who McBrided that little piece of misinformation? There is no way the PM is going to be daft enough to get his machine to brief in favour or against any candidate. His fingers were burnt when his hounds put it about that he favoured Richard Ottaway as Chairman of the 22. That put the Kibosh on him.

But Eleanor is doomed.

And the madness? Our favourite Tory jungle bunny, Nadine Dorries, has thrown her straight jacket into the ring. The question is when she sees the lay of the land will she withdraw or be humiliated? Who on earth will vote for the poor thing? Cameron haters might have seen this as an orgasmic opportunity six months ago, but baiting Bercow will be seen as much more satisfying for the Rampton wing of the Conservative party. It’s all quite mad as Bercow has been rather a good Speaker for backbenchers. Anyhow, he has said that he will be retiring to Dunspeakin early in the next Parliament, so let them have some fun.

And there is the other interesting part of this tale, there is absolutely no way that Bercow can be seen to interfere in this election in any way. He has to be in Purdah or else his authority will be destroyed. If he has any sense he will rejoice that there is such a high level of candidates for the job and looks forward to working with whomsoever the House elects. And will it be a power struggle at Speaker’s House? Of course not. They will both, despite their mutual loathing, make it work.

Burns is both sensible and popular in the House. And he was a whip. He would have taken soundings. He made not have liked Transport too much (and that is an understatement), but he will be a popular Deputy. Without wishing to be too unkind, his job is to be fair in mindblowingly tedious debates, tell members with charm that their ‘points of order’ aren’t and calm everybody down when tempers get frayed. And if he wants any lessons just watch the Chairman of Ways and Means (the real Deputy Speaker) Lyndsey Hoyle who is master of the art and will one day make a great Speaker.

In the meantime Simon Burns will do rather well.

Dear old Tony Benn always got it wrong when he said that politics is about policies rather than personalities.

This election is going to be fun.

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