EXCL Chris Bryant vows not to ‘belittle’ MPs if elected next Commons Speaker
Chris Bryant has vowed not to “belittle, diminish or lecture” MPs if he is elected the next Speaker of the Commons, as the battle to replace John Bercow kicks into gear.
In an interview with The House magazine, the Labour backbencher said MPs had been “battered and bruised enough” by recent events and parliament is in need of a “cwtch” post-Brexit.
Setting out his stall to replace Mr Bercow, Mr Bryant pledged to be an authoritative but respectful voice and said he would ensure the restoration and renewal project of parliament would not waste taxpayers’ money. He also called for Speaker’s House to be opened up and made “more welcoming”.
Mr Bryant, who entered parliament in 2001, said he was shaped by seeing a woman MP be told off by former chair Michael Martin for reading from notes in the Chamber.
“It’s just devastating. It’s like the headteacher telling you off in front of the whole class and it’s broadcast to the nation and your family is sitting there as well,” he told The House.
“We’re all battered and bruised enough in this parliament. So, the first thing for me is I will do everything in my power not to belittle or diminish or lecture MPs from the Chair, but, insofar as it is possible, to respect every single person.
“The second thing is, you have to be authoritative enough in the Chair to be able to command respect and to be able to do the business. Listening to the clerks, but not always being entirely driven by the clerks.
“The third thing is, I’m chair of the finance committee. I’ve been involved in the restoration and renewal project for a long time.
“This is probably the single biggest project that parliament itself is going to face in our lifetimes, vast amounts of money, and it’s important that we do it properly in a way that works for the public, works for MPs, makes sure we can do our job properly, but doesn’t waste vast amounts of money. So, those are my three things.”
He added: “Most MPs would probably make their judgment on the basis of who can I see in the Chair maintaining order, knowing the rules and knowing the history, knowing the precedent, being authoritative enough, but actually being quite pleasant.”
Mr Bryant also said he would like to host events for MPs’ spouses and hold an annual gala for people who work in parliament, hosted by MPs.
“This is a community of people. There’s a Welsh word, cwtch, which means hug. I just feel a bit as if – this is going to sound terrible pious – I just feel like it all needs a bit of a cwtch at the moment.”
Mr Bercow was expected to stand down over the summer, but he is reportedly preparing to delay his departure if the Brexit impasse is not resolved.
Speaking to The House magazine in February, Dame Eleanor Laing, one of three deputy speakers, became the first person to announce their intention to run when Mr Bercow steps aside.
Several MPs are rumoured to be interested in running for the Speakership, including Dame Eleanor’s fellow deputy speakers Lindsay Hoyle and Rosie Winterton. Harriet Harman told The House last year she would “consider” whether to run when Mr Bercow departs.