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Sat, 24 October 2020

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Veteran SNP MP Pete Wishart unveils radical manifesto in Commons Speaker bid

Veteran SNP MP Pete Wishart unveils radical manifesto in Commons Speaker bid
3 min read

SNP MP Pete Wishart has thrown his hat into the ring to become the next Commons Speaker.


Unveiling a radical manifesto, the Perthshire MP said he would prepare the House for the "21st century as Scottish MPs prepare to leave for an independent Scotland" if elected to succeed John Bercow.

If successful, Mr Wishart would be the first Speaker since the Second World War not to have come from one of the two main parties.

Mr Wishart said he would make "substantial and far-reaching" reforms, including ditching the MPs' formal dress code and bringing in an electronic voting system to speed up Commons business.

"When there are multiple votes on debates such as at report stage of bills several hours can be wasted just in the simple process of the House expressing an opinion," he said.

"Members of Parliament are forced into constrained, packed (and when particularly busy) potentially dangerous voting lobbies to queue in designated lines to be counted by a whip at the lobby door."

He added: "I believe that electronic voting must be put in place as quickly as practically possible to end this massive waste of time and allow busy MPs to use their time much more constructively."

Current Speaker John Bercow had been expected to step down from the role in the summer after 10 years in the role, but may extend his time in the chair given the continued uncertainty around Brexit.

Mr Wishart would be forced to disaffiliate from the SNP in order to maintain impartiality if chosen by MPs for the role.

In another significant break from tradition, he also vowed to end the requirement for MPs to address each other by their constituency or by titles such as Honourable member.

He added: "We all have names, and if they are good enough for us in all other day to day discourse they should be good enough for the chamber of the House of Commons.

"All debates should continue to be made through the chair but we must start to speak to each other like ordinary human beings and address each other sensibly."

And in a replication of the rules from the Scottish Parliament, Mr Wishart MPs wouold be allowed to clap in the Chamber.

"In the absence of clapping strange and exotic sounds have emerged which accounts for ‘approval’ in the House of Commons – which equally baffles and amuses our constituents.

"We should be able to show our appreciation as Members of Parliament in the same way as everybody else does in the communities we represent."

Labour's Harriet Harman and Chris Bryant, as well as Conservative MP Edward Leigh and Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing have all signalled their intention to run for the post when Mr Bercow steps down.

Mr Wishart's decision has provoked anger amongst some of his party's supporters who say the move would ingrain the SNP further into the Westminster establishment.

But SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon supported the bid, saying: "For as long as the SNP is in the House of Commons, we should be trying to make it work as well as we can, and undo some of the barriers that are in the way - we've seen all too powerfully in the Brexit debate how Scotland's voice is not being heard."

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