EXCL: Eleanor Laing says she will run to become Speaker when John Bercow steps down

Posted On: 
28th February 2019

The starting gun on the race to become the next Commons Speaker has been fired as Dame Eleanor Laing confirmed she will run to replace John Bercow when he steps down.

Dame Eleanor Laing is one of three deputy speakers
Credit: 
Baldo Sciacca

In an exclusive interview with The House magazine, the veteran Conservative - who is currently one of Mr Bercow's three deputies - became the first person MP to publicly confirm she wants his job.

Friends of the Mr Bercow have said he plans to step down this summer, although he has yet to confirm a departure date.

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He had originally pledged to stand down in 2018 after nine years in the job, but U-turned after the 2017 election.

When asked by The House if she would run to replace the Speaker when he resigns, Dame Eleanor said: “I don’t know when the Speaker will decide to go, but it’s very much his decision. And when he finally does decide that he’s going to go, I expect that there will be a great many candidates to replace him and I would expect the deputy speakers to be amongst those candidates.”

She added: “I will try to become Speaker when he finally decides to go. I am fortunate to have had five years’ experience in the Speaker’s chair. There is a lot to be done to take our democratic system onto the next stage.”

Other MPs expected to run for the post include Harriet Harman, who told The House last year that she would “consider” whether to stand when there is a vacancy.

‘TESOSTERONE’

Elsewhere in her interview, Dame Eleanor said too much testosterone in the Chamber is making Prime Minister’s Questions overly “aggressive”, as she argued more women MPs and a generational shift will bring about change to Westminster.

“Prime Minister’s Questions will always be noisy, it will always be lively, it will always be controversial and that is absolutely right. But personal attacks are wrong and shouldn’t happen, and rudeness should never happen in the House, never, ever, ever,” she said.

“There’s a certain amount of testosterone which drives this. It is a scientific fact that if you have less testosterone present, then you will have less aggression. So, if you have more women, you have less testosterone and less aggression.”

The Epping Forest MP, who was first elected in 1997, also said it was “unfortunate” that Sir Christopher Chope decided to object to a bill calling for greater protection for children at risk of FGM but defended his right to do so.

“I consider that generational change is what will bring about the most beneficial developments in our procedure and in parliament,” she continued.

“For an environment to improve and become more family friendly, people friendly, women-friendly, and more diverse and tolerant, you need to have everyone involved. You can’t just have women fighting for women, you have to have everybody fighting for women.

“You can’t have only gay people fighting for gay people, you have to have everyone fighting for gay people. The generation of men who dominated this place when I was first elected didn’t see it like that. Why would they? They were a generation who had it easy. Why would they want to change anything?

“But the next generation of men are men who’ve been brought up by professional women, whose sisters and wives are professional women and now their daughters are professional women. Therefore, they see things differently. That’s how I see change coming about. It’s a generational thing.”