The Commons Speaker and contested elections

Highly controversial comments by John Bercow in early February about President Trump and Brexit led many to criticise his failure to uphold the traditions and dignity of his high office. There is an almost universal assumption that no Speaker ever encounters opposition when he stands for re-election. Alistair Lexden showed that the assumption is without foundation in a letter in the London Evening Standard on February 15. An abbreviated version of the letter was published; the full text follows.

Dear Sir

When John Bercow last stood as a Tory in his Buckingham constituency in 2005, he had a majority of over 18,000. Prominent local Tories wanted to put up a candidate against him at the 2010 election after he had become Speaker thanks to the support of Labour MPs. Conservative headquarters told them to respect the convention that the Speaker is always returned unopposed. The convention is a myth. All ten serving Speakers since the Second World War have faced contests. In Buckingham Bercow has been opposed by UKIP and independents. Four of his predecessors from the Tory benches had candidates from the other main parties against them. If the Buckingham Conservatives had followed these precedents, the historic office of Speaker would not have been demeaned by a vain attention-seeker.

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords