The Bercow Arithmetic

OK,  I didn’t read the Laura Cox report on “Bullying and Harassment of House of Commons Staff” when it was published last week, and to be honest I still haven’t read it now, just seen some of the commentary. But one thing that came out of it was the divide between Labour and Conservative MPs as to whether the Speaker of the House of Commons should stay or go.

The Conservative MPs, and websites like Conservative Home and Guido Fawkes, seem to be unanimous that Bercow should step down.

In contrast, Labour MPs seem to be uniform in wanting Bercow to stay, at least until after Brexit. LabourList is at best neutral, merely reporting the views of Labour MPs. The New Statesman, in two articles, accuse Labour MPs of making a “grim calculation” but doesn’t express an opinion of its own.

While the media are framing the calculation in terms of Brexit, has no-one but me noticed there is a separate Parliamentary calculation to be made?

I used to live in the Buckingham constituency: the Speaker, John Bercow, used to be my MP, and I’ve met him a few times. So I can confirm he has neither a halo or a pitchfork: only a mace.

When Bercow stands down as Speaker, he will go off to the House of Lords, and a new Speaker will be elected in the Commons.

Tradition suggests that the replacement is an Opposition MP.  And that there will be a by-election in Buckingham to select a new MP.

So an existing Labour MP will turn Independent: and an Independent member will be replaced by a Conservative.  Whilst the Conservatives will still not have a majority in Parliament after that, even one extra MP will make the Government Whips job marginally easier, and the Opposition’s likelihood of overturning a specific vote slightly harder.

Except… HS2

It blasts through the constituency, at a huge environmental cost.  It’s made numerous people furious: it got me back into politics.

I had the interesting experience of going to a  local constituency Labour party meeting when the Shadow Transport Secretary was there:  there were perhaps six members, outnumbered by local Conservative types, with cut-glass accents.  I’ve also been to various Conservative and UKIP meetings, as well as getting to know some of the local LibDems.   So unless there has been a massive change over the last five years, I’ve got an idea about the local views of the parties: and it is not a place that will like Corbyn.

Without HS2, a new Buckingham MP would certainly be Conservative.  With HS2: who knows?

A by-election to replace Bercow in Buckingham would no doubt be bitterly fought, with both LibDems and UKIP having had some constituency machinery in the area, so no certainty for the Conservatives.

So my advice to the Government is that if they want a new Conservative Buckingham, ditch HS2.  You know you want to!