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14 December 2009updated 27 Sep 2015 2:28am

Is Bercow running scared?

The Speaker should fight Farage, not look for an unelected seat

By George Eaton

It’s worth reading all of Iain Dale’s interview with John Bercow in this month’s Total Politics, but what caught my eye was the suggestion that the Speaker should be given a separate constituency and be elected by MPs alone.

In response to a question about the challenge he faces at the next election (from the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage), Bercow floated the idea that the Speaker should be given a tailor-made constituency, named St Stephen’s, after the historic Commons chapel.

Farage declared that the plan demonstrated the “bumptiousness and arrogance” of Bercow, adding that he “should stand and face the music”.

In response to which, it’s only fair to note that Bercow did not support the idea. He said: “My attitude is that, as such a decision would affect me directly, it’s not right for me to be either an advocate of it or resistant to it.”

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In any case, the idea of a largely unelected Speaker is not an attractive one and Bercow has little to fear from Farage. Sitting Speakers have always faced challenges from maverick candidates. Michael Martin survived a challenge from the Scottish National Party at the last election.

As for the rest of the interview, Bercow deserves credit for this robust defence of his wife’s political independence:

One thing I do think is quite wrong and unfair is for somebody to say: “Oh well, it’s improper for the Speaker’s wife to be engaged in acts of politics.” That’s wrong. It may well add to the spice of life, it might well cause me some difficulties in terms of press coverage, but to suggest that it’s somehow constitutionally improper is quite wrong. And the simple reason for that is that the obligation for impartiality applies to me. It does not apply to Sally. And deep down I ask you to consider this, and hope you might even agree. It’s a deeply sexist view based on the idea that the wife is my chattel.

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