EXPLAINED The race to succeed John Bercow - how the contest for a new Commons Speaker will play out

Posted On: 
10th September 2019

John Bercow will leave his role as House of Commons Speaker after a decade in post on October 31, but how will the race to replace him play out?

The race to replace John Bercow will take less than a day to complete
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While campaigning has already begun for those wishing to replace him, the formal process is remarkably short.

According to the Commons authorities, the whole process of nominations opening, closing, speeches by candidates, voting, counting and the result being announced will take place in a single day.

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MPs are not currently due to be sitting the day after Mr Bercow’s planned final turn in the chair, so the election is expected to take place on Monday, November 4.

The day will play out as follows: Candidates must submit written nominations between 9.30am and 10.30am on the morning of the election.

They must get the signatures of between 12 and 15 MPs in support, with at least three of them from a different party to theirs.

At 11am a list of all the candidates will be published on the Parliament website, and then the Commons will meet to start the election at 2.30pm.

Each candidate will give a speech, and then MPs will get 30 minutes to vote in a secret ballot for their preferred candidate.

If any of them gets more than 50% of the votes they will be declared the winner – if not then MPs vote again, except this time the candidate who came last, and any who got less than 5% of the votes, are removed from contention.

If necessary there will be successive ballots until a single candidate wins more than 50% of the votes, when a motion is then put to the House proposing them as Speaker.

If it is agreed they will take the chair straight away, but if it is contested there will be a vote. 

Once the Speaker has been elected, there will be speeches of congratulation from the party leaders, and the Commons would then go to the House of Lords for the formal swearing-in ceremony, known as the “Royal Approbation of the Speaker”.

Until then MPs will be lobbied by the various candidates, with so far nine of them already throwing their hat into the ring, with Labour’s Lindsay Hoyle the early favourite with bookies, who are offering his chances at evens.

The Chorley MP has been a deputy speaker for nine years and is well-liked across the chamber, with Tory MP Nigel Evans already backing him for the role.

But he will face strong competition from former minister Harriet Harman, who announced her candidacy with a vow to be a “champion of Parliament”.

The ex-deputy leader of Labour and current ‘Mother of the House’ is the most high-profile MP running for the job, and has the second-shortest odds at 11-4.

Another current deputy speaker in with a shout is Tory Dame Eleanor Laing, who has long made it clear she wanted to move up to the chair after Mr Bercow.

The Epping Forest MP tweeted “it’s time for change” after she confirmed to Sky News soon after Mr Bercow’s statement she was running, but is at 10/1 with the bookies.

Chris Bryant, the Labour former minister, is another to have set out his intention to run. 

The member for Rhondda has one of the deepest knowledges of Commons procedure of current MPs and is a regular fixture during parliamentary debates, but may struggle to get enough support win the contest, and is at 12/1.

Another senior Labour MP and the chair of the powerful Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier, said she is running, as is the final deputy speaker, Dame Rosie Winterton, and so is the SNP’s Pete Wishart, the party’s longest serving MP who acts as their shadow leader of the House.

Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative backbencher, is also going for it, and is standing on a platform of objecting to a full decant of Parliament during the restoration and renewal plans.

Outsider Sir Henry Bellingham said he wants the job too, saying the Speaker must show "respect" to all MPs, admitting "people might accuse me of being an establishment figure" but adding: "I'm not one of the inner core in the Speaker's office."

Another of those expected to run is Charles Walker, who was made a KBE in Theresa May’s resignation honours, but the chairman of the House of Commons Procedure Committee has yet to make public his decision.