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Commons Leader Promises A Higher Calibre Of Political Candidate At The Next General Election

3 min read

The leader of the House of Commons Mark Spencer has said voters can expect a higher calibre of candidate to stand for parliament in the next general election, as parties will have more time to complete vetting processes.

In a forthcoming interview with The House magazine, Spencer suggested unsuitable individuals were able to become MPs in 2017 and 2019 because of the rushed announcement of a general election.

The cabinet minister's comments come as parliament has faced a reckoning over allegations of sleaze, sexism, bullying and misogyny. 

Last month Imran Ahmad Khan, who was elected as the MP for Wakefield in the 2019 general election, announced his resignation after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy at a party in 2008. 

While Spencer was not involved in Ahmed Khan's selection, he admitted that there had perhaps been too much haste in choosing candidates in recent years, and that his party would need to employ more scrutiny in future. 

“I don't think having two rapid general elections in a row has helped parliamentary parties,” Spencer said.

“The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats will all have selected candidates quite quickly, not realising a general election was coming,” the minister added.

“I think we'll be in a much better place at the next general election, certainly in the [Conservative] party as we will have taken much more time to scrutinise people. There will be a much longer process.”

This month, Neil Parish, who was elected in 2010, resigned as a Tory MP after being caught by colleagues and subsequently admitted to having watched pornography in the Commons chamber.

In the same week, the Labour MP Liam Byrne was found to have bullied a former staff member. He will be suspended from the Commons for two days.

Ongoing cases of misconduct have sparked outrage among the public and within Westminster.

In an effort to crack down on the issue, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has announced plans to host a conference where sweeping reforms to parliament’s hiring processes will be discussed.

A number of MPs have proposed that the responsibility for hiring staff should be transferred from MPs to a separate independent body, making way for an independent complaints process. 

Spencer told The House magazine that he is open to the idea, but believed that it may not be the golden bullet many think it could be.

“If I'm a member of staff in an office where my boss is abusing me, whether or not he's paying my wages is not the issue here,” the minister said.

“What actually is the issue is me being abused. But it is certainly something that can help with the conversation and help with moving in the right direction.”

The leader of the Commons said that with the Conservatives aiming for a general election in 2024, all political parties should have sufficient time to ensure the quality of their candidates improves.

“We're aiming at a 2024 election, everybody knows that,” Spencer added. 

“It gives political parties much longer to scrutinise their own candidates. Hopefully we will end up at the end of that with better MPs on all sides of the House.”

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