(Photo Courtesy of PRNewsFoto/House of Commons)
The House of Commons returned to Westminster Wednesday for the first time since the chaos of the General Election and the announcement of a minority Conservative government with just one seat less than its parliamentary opposition.
“This is the first time that the Commons has convened since the election – and it is also the first time that we have selected a new Speaker,” Home Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs upon their return.
“Let me start by saying that Theresa May’s government and her Government are working, day after day, week after week, to deliver the recovery and make sure that there is progress for the people of this country.
“I think the people of this country will expect to be listened to and to have a Parliament that can serve them, and that’s what we’re going to be delivering.”
The four candidates competing to replace John Bercow as Speaker—Jeremy Wright MP, Alistair Burt MP, Iain Duncan Smith MP and Matthew Offord MP—brought their skills to the floor of the Commons to stand against his formidable record of speaking time and strong views on MPs’ right to debate.
Following an informal debate with MPs, four of the candidates made their final speeches in an attempt to sway the final vote and unite the pro-Brexit and pro-Remain factions of Parliament into one.
So what were the most salient points made by the candidates and what would become of the Speaker after the election was annulled?
An influx of air traffic control rules since Brexit
Whilst Parliament won’t be negotiating the outcome of Brexit itself, it will be responsible for passing the legislative process required by Brexit. Therefore, any delays as a result of the parliamentary election will require a new chamber be decided by the leadership, says John Tully CBE, former Prime Minister’s official spokesman and former chairman of the Conservative Association.
“MPs will be presented with a difficult juggling act – trying to force through laws to change the relationship with the EU, in the process also trying to support the EU with unquantifiable issues relating to aviation and other such issues,” Tully said.
“The elections for Speaker won’t add to that challenge or worry the MPs who have responsibility for trying to advance and pass these laws.”
But the turmoil of the Parliament over Brexit will not prove an obstacle to the plans of the Liberal Democrats, who said they would not support the government to pass any legislation if it went against their Brexit principles. “We should be using the next few weeks and months to formulate strategies on how to save the country’s ailing economy,” said Anna Soubry MP, who stood against the incumbent Speaker in the election and lost to the Conservative.
Winning back non-voters
In the election, 63% of the electorate who voted Conservative ended up with Theresa May as their new Prime Minister. However, only half of the electorate overall decided to back the Conservatives. For this reason, Gisela Stuart MP hopes that her name will be in the hat of candidates expected to be shortlisted after the second round of voting on July 11.
During her final speech before the first vote on the election, Stuart said that politicians needed to better explain the actions of the Conservative government in order to win over voters who abandoned the party.
“It’s the approach of parliamentary government, which tries to look beyond the headlines, that we need to see in respect of Brexit,” she said.
“If we want to achieve Brexit by the end of March 2019 we have to make sure we get that balanced package that respects the vote, that respects Parliament, because we need their support.”