Comment: “One man’s career choice should not deprive us of a vote”

John Bercow
John Bercow

More than 1,200 voters spoilt their ballot papers in the Buckingham constituency election last week, many no doubt protesting the lack of choice at the election due to John Bercow’s position as Speaker.

This large number prompted Mr Bercow to once more pledge to look into the convention of main parties not standing against the Speaker at elections.

It does seem totally wrong that a country which prides itself so much on the strength of its democracy would allow thousands of people to be effectively disenfranchised from the voting process on the whim of one man’s career choice.

Surely the best solution would be for the Speaker to resign his seat in Parliament once elected in the House of Commons by MPs, so that he no longer represents a constituency.

He or she could even be given the honorary title of MP for the Palace of Westminster.

Opponents of this claim the Speaker would lose his constituency link, plus it would trigger a by-election straight after a general election.

For the former, I would argue such things probably matter more to parliamentarians than to a normal voter who just wants to be able to put a cross next to his party of choice.

For the latter, perhaps the Speaker could be elected by MPs just prior to a general election (this would be quite simple given the fixed five year terms we now have), and he or she would then serve during the course of the next parliament.

There is no doubt that Mr Bercow is an extremely popular man in this part of the world, who does a very good job for the people he represents.

Indeed, I would wager that most of his constituents would rather elect to keep him and not be able to vote for one of the main parties than change the system and lose him.

However, his popularity does not make this antiquated, inadequate system right. Mr Bercow would leave a fantastic legacy if he oversees reforming the system so that, even if it is too late for Buckingham, it is at least the last constituency to be faced with such a democratic deficit.