Harriet Harman vows to be ‘champion of Parliament’ as she launches Commons Speaker bid

Posted On: 
10th September 2019

Harriet Harman has said that she would be a ‘champion of Parliament’ if she wins the race to become the next Commons speaker.

Harriet Harman has announced her intention to run as Speaker to replace John Bercow
PA Images

The longest continuously-serving female MP - who has been called the ‘Mother of the House’ - threw her hat into the ring after John Bercow announced that he would stand down.

Buckinghamshire MP Mr Bercow, who has held the post since 2009, will quit on 31 October, when Britain is set to leave the European Union.

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Ms Harman, who served as a Labour Cabinet minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown said she would follow in the incumbent’s footsteps by allowing "Parliament to have its say”.

"Sometimes the Executive doesn't want Parliament to have its say. It is the job of the Speaker, that Parliament, by majority, has its say. That is what John Bercow has sought to do," she told the BBC's Today programme.

"I think I would be a champion for Parliament and I think the relationship between Parliament and the public is very difficult at the moment.

"I think a really confident, positive voice, speaking about the importance of Parliament with the public is necessary at this time, but I would say that whoever gets to be Speaker next time around, I will support them because it’s a very important role.”

Ms Harman joins current deputy speakers Lindsay Hoyle and Dame Eleanor Laing, Labour MP Chris Bryant, the Tories’ Edward Leigh and the SNP's Pete Wishart in announcing that they will run for the job.

The Camberwell and Peckham MP also praised Mr Bercow for having allowed MPs to table 152 urgent questions to ministers last year, while his predecessor in one year allowed just two.

“That has meant Parliament is relevant,” she added.

“Sometimes Ministers would rather sit in their cosy departments and not have to answer the difficult questions, but that’s right actually, that he has made Parliament relevant and more powerful.”

Mr Bercow’s shock announcement on Monday prompted applause from opposition MPs, while many on the Government side, who have long been critical of his approach, particularly on Brexit-related legislation, remained seated.

Ms Harman dismissed the suggestion that her criticism of the pro-Leave side would affect her ability to be neutral at a time of stark division among MPs.

She said: “The Speaker is chosen from amongst MPs and all MPs are elected in a contested election where they put forward their views of their party and their own political views.

"But once you offer yourself for election as Speaker you are making a promise that you will set that aside and that you will be neutral, so whoever goes forward to be Speaker will have to go through that transition where they say right, now I’m neutral."