Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Still More on the New Speaker

Another interesting feature of the House of Commons' new Speaker is that the post is quite different from the post of Speaker of our own House of Representatives. In the U.S., the Speaker is the chief leader of the majority party that controls the House and as such she is a partisan who sets the agenda and tries to move legislation that her party desires.

Not so in Britain. The Speaker of the House of Commons "must, of course, be above party political controversy and must be seen to be completely impartial in all public matters." The "of course" shows how different British thinking is about the role of the Speaker. Upon election, the Speaker resigns from his party, remains aloof from his former friends in the House, and does not even frequent the House dining room. He is an umpire, not a partisan.

Quite a difference from the U.S.! It almost makes one wonder why any politician would want to be the Commons' Speaker. It's not the sort of job most politicians would aspire to.

In his first speech in the chair, new Speaker John Bercow reiterated his intention to abandon all of his political views. The leader of his former party, the Tories, in his congratulatory speech, added that he hoped that would be true -- another little dig at the fact that Bercow was not especially popular within his own party.

By the way, the Parliamentary factsheets from which I learned all this information are really delightful -- much better than anything put out by the U.S. Congress. Be sure to check out this factsheet on the customs and traditions of the House of Commons -- very well done.

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