Sir Edward Leigh: If elected Speaker, I would submerge my personality into the office and keep business flowing
Sir Edward Leigh commits to being “rigidly impartial” in his bid to be the next Speaker of the House; pledging to hold the executive to account and defend our Parliamentary democracy.
Love him or hate him John Bercow has been the kind of Speaker who has put his mark on the House of Commons. But, as the Italians say, a thin pope always follows a fat one: I believe the office of Speaker needs a bit of breathing space to take in the changes of the past decade and the challenges that yet lay ahead. Maybe a little bit of boring is just what the doctor ordered.
I would seek to be a traditional Speaker who does not speak much or put himself in the limelight. Just as judges do, I would seek by my conduct and dress to submerge my personality into the office and keep business flowing.
I would look to prioritise serious debate, which means prioritising backbenchers and fewer time limits – certainly not less than five minutes. Urgent questions should indeed be held when needed: when there is something timely and important to discuss.
I would firmly oppose the current proposals to needlessly demolish the Grade II*-listed Richmond House when there are cheaper, safe, more environmentally friendly alternatives that are less wasteful of public money. When the Commons is forced to decant, we must keep it as short as possible.
Most of all, I would be rigidly impartial and, as Speaker Lenthall so wisely put it, would have neither eyes to see nor ears to hear but as this House directs me. As a free backbencher I have never been known to hold back my views because that is appropriate to the nature of our role in holding the executive to account.
My concern is that we prove ourselves capable of handing over to future generations a House of Commons and a Speakership which has preserved the best of our past and augmented our capability to hold the executive to account. These are not playthings for any passing generation to do with as it pleases but an inheritance which, like the nation as a whole, we are entrusted to protect. That would be my aim as Speaker of the House of Commons.
If elected, I would totally cease to air my personal opinions but would seek to defend the customs and privileges of the House of Commons which have stood the test of time in defending our parliamentary democracy. For those friends on either side of the aisle who haven’t shared my views, there’s no better way to shut me up than to do me the privilege of electing me Speaker.
Sir Edward Leigh is a Conservative MP for Gainsborough.