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IFG - New Speaker will face unparalleled challenge – and opportunity

The new Speaker of the House of Commons – the 158th in its history – was elected on Monday 4th ​November. They take office at a time of unparalleled public attention and scrutiny of the role, says a new report from the Institute for Government. This environment will provide both challenge and opportunity for whoever is elected.

Published last week, The new Speaker of the House of Commons: key challenges says the candidates campaigning to be John Bercow’s successor must set out a vision for how they would run the Commons as an institution and represent it to the outside world.

The paper lays out nine key challenges.

The first set are about the Speaker’s visible role: chairing debates, acting as a referee and ensuring the House’s rules and procedures are followed. In the last two years, some specific procedures have been used in unprecedented ways by MPs determined to assert their rights. The new Speaker will need to address broader questions about how to handle a more assertive Commons.    

The second set relate to the management and administration of the Commons. In that role, the new Speaker must work to address the bullying and harassment of staff in Parliament, as well as lead the Commons through the costly restoration work that the Palace of Westminster needs.

The report says it is crucial the new Speaker set out how they intend to fulfil these different parts of the role – and consider how they will work with others to address the issues facing the Commons.

Dr Alice Lilly, Institute for Government senior researcher, said:

“From the moment they are dragged to the chair, the new Speaker will be in the spotlight – but they will also have an opportunity to help shape the future of Commons. The challenges facing Parliament will require the Speaker to work with others and need a concerted effort to address them.”

Dr Hannah White, Institute for Government deputy director, said:

“Unusually MPs have the chance to choose a Speaker before a general election instead of afterwards. Before they cast their ballot, MPs will want to consider whether the candidates are up to the job of tackling the significant challenges facing the House of Commons.”

Notes to editors

  1. Full report can be found on our website.
  2. The Institute for Government is an independent think tank that works to make government more effective.
  3. For more information, including data to reproduce any charts, please contact / 0785 031 3791.
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