Why shouldn’t Buckingham Liberal Democrats join in?

The accepted wisdom is that it is “protocol” not to oppose the Speaker. Yet there are plenty of examples that this is simply not true – Selwyn Lloyd, for one, was opposed, and there are other examples (and we are not talking pre-war or the mists of time).

What is going on in Buckingham is extraordinary. The Speaker is unpopular with his local party – not just a large block of Conservative MPs in Parliament – and his wife has shot through the Labour Party hoops and jumped other hurdles to go on the list of approved Parliamentary Candidates. Nobody can remember an MP for one party with a wife totally opposed to what he stands for, so badly she is not just quietly hoping another party wins, she is prepared to stand in another constituency and openly fight for a totally opposite cause.

Bercow was elected as Speaker on a “reformist agenda” to spearhead the drive to clean up the expenses issue. This is floundering, and he hardly set a good example by ordering expensive new curtains and going on a general spending spree to spruce up his grace-and-favour living accommodation, including lashing out no less than £6,000 on a new sofa when there was nothing wrong with the one chosen by the sacked Speaker Martin except it was “not as comfortable as the new one.”

Nigel Farage is out to win with a determined effort, he sees all this as UKIP’s best hope of a Parliamentary breakthrough.

Meanwhile, the local Liberal Democrats are supposed to sit back and do nothing? Fight local elections, keep a party together locally for the sole purposes of fighting elections, yes, but now stand down just because of “protocol”? Is this not just based on the two major parties who have seen the Speakership as a buggins turn rota, where if one party has the job, the other party gets a go next time round (only recently changed by MPs opening voting, and using proportional representation as well), but why shouldn’t Liberal Democrats be seen to be going along with the Establishment’s cosy protocols?

Wouldn’t Buckingham’s Liberal Democrats be better off instead of having a “standard bearer” who is totally toothless, instead have a PPC with sleeves rolled up, and seeing the Tory vote being split down the middle with local differences, joining in what could be a most interesting scrap? Given there is not going to be a Liberal Democrat Speaker, what ever the selection method, why not let Buckingham get stuck in? If they found more members, concentrated on key wards for the next local elections, this surely would be better than doing nothing?

And … would this not be more radical than just sitting on their hands?

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • What? There is no structure to this post, other than an odd quixotic desire to portray the Lib Dems as opposed to “the Establishment”, whatever that is.

    I would also challenge your assertion Bercow is unpopular with his local party (not that he has one now, of course). Apparently he is very popular because he is a good constituency MP.

  • Yes… but I’d rather not risk splitting the vote and letting UKIP in.

  • Grammar Police 22nd Dec '09 - 11:40am

    Bercow may be speaker, but why shouldn’t the residents of Buckingham have their choice of MP? In any event, the ‘convention’ of not standing against the speaker doesn’t seem to go back a very long way . . .

  • The point is that by not standing, we ars denying the voters the right to a real political choice. As things stand they have a “choice” between 2 tories, each pretending to be something else.

  • Every citizen of this country has a right to parliamentary representation.


    Every citizen of this country has a right to choose that representation?


    So why should one small group of citizens [in Buckingham, or Glasgow, or wherever] find that choice is taken from them and given to 646 MPs of the previous parliament?

    Gwyn’s solution?

    Let the retiring Speaker stand on a Speaker/ Conservative or Speaker/Labour ticket and – if re-elected – let them face a confirmatory vote in the new parliament.

    The new Speaker (whether the retiring speaker or a new choice) then becomes a supernumerary member of the house and the electors choose a new representative by byelection a few months later.



  • “Nobody can remember an MP for one party with a wife totally opposed to what he stands for, so badly she is not just quietly hoping another party wins, she is prepared to stand in another constituency and openly fight for a totally opposite cause.”

    What a disgraceful implication. “Of course you can have the vote dear, just as long as you don’t do anything I might not disagree with. Now then where’s my supper….”

  • Liberal Neil 22nd Dec '09 - 4:39pm

    1. It is reasonable to question whether or not we should stand against the Speaker. There are good arguments both ways, but,

    2. The fact that Mrs Bercow has views of her own is a good thing and something Lib Dems should be happy with.

    3. There will be more Lib Dem activity in each ward in nearby Oxford East than there would be in the entire Buckingham constituency, even if we were to stand, so there is plenty for every active member in the constituency to do.

  • Is this your local party? Constitutionally the objects of a local party include returning Liberal Democrat members of Parliament which tends to imply standing candidates.

    If so then select a PPC 🙂

  • What a rubbish article. I’m not going to cover the wife thing, because that’s been done. However, you think that the Speaker is elected “using proportional representation”? Honestly.

  • To grub around in the political gutter and try to sneak-win a seat, just because the big boys are following convention and staying out of it, is cheap politics. Worthy of UKIP. Are we really thinking about joining them in their gutter? If we do, we shall merely cheapen ourselves too. (By which I mean, in case it isn’t obvious, that we shall lose votes elsewhere, because people don’t like voting for cheap politics.)

    And as to the argument that what legitimises such a shabby tactic is that the wife has views of her own, and that’s terrible…. Well, words fail me.

  • “Nobody has a right to see a particular party on the ballot paper.”

    Even ignoring the speaker’s seat the party hasn’t contested every seat in the mainland UK at any General Election since it was formed as it has taken a tactical decision that it was more advantageous not to.

  • “has accepted the advice of Cowley Street that it is in the party’s interests not to oppose the Speaker in Buckingham”

    Presumably the Federal Exec took that decision?

  • I’m not trying to find a conspiracy – as I said we’ve chosen not to contest particular seats, speaker excluded, at every election since 1992.

    What I’m not clear on is what that decision making process is, in part because I couldn’t find anything clear in the constitution on the decision whether to stand a parliamentary candidate (in contrast to local election candidates).

    There is clearly a point at which this ceases to be a local party matter. If 100+ seats decided not to field candidates it would have a serious impact on our national credibility and you would expect the Federal Party to intervene at that point.

  • Robin Simpson 27th Apr '10 - 4:44pm

    It is nothing short of disgraceful that some 60,000 voters in this constituency are disenfranchised and can play no useful part in the election of their government. Personally I think that there must be some european human rights law that forbids the three main parties from rigging the election of an MP, if there is not there should be.
    There is no excuse for this behaviour. What about the new young voters? what message does it send to first time voters.
    Shame on all parties, especially the Lib Dems

  • I sympathise with Robin Simpson. If we are serious about constitutional reform (and we are) we could usefully start with the convention that political parties do not put up candidates against the Speaker.

    What kind of a “choice” is John Bercow versus Nigel Fagage?

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