The former Tory minister who called John Bercow a "stupid, sanctimonious dwarf" has tried to reassure MPs that his poor relationship with the Speaker would not affect the smooth running of parliament should he be elected to the role of deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.
Simon Burns, the Tory MP who quit as a transport minister last week in order to run for the job vacated by Nigel Evans, is considered one of the favourites to secure the high profile and highly paid position. However eyebrows were raised when he applied for the role of chairing Commons debates given his troubled past with Bercow - who would effectively become his boss.
In a letter sent to all MPs, seen by The Huffington Post UK, Burns admits with some understatement: "It is no secret that the Speaker and I are not the closest of friends." He adds: "But you do not need to be close friends to carry out the job successfully."
"The crucial ingredient is to do the job professionally and in the best interests of the House of Commons itself. In all my jobs in Parliament, whether in Government or Opposition, I have always behaved in a highly professional way, working with a wide range of different people. I have no reason to doubt that the Speaker is equally professional and we would be able to forge a professional working relationship, to the benefit of the smooth running of the House of Commons."
During testy exchanges in the Commons in 2010, Bercow repeatedly admonished Burns, then a health minister, for not answering questions in the correct manner. An irritated Burns was seen muttering the words "stupid, sanctimonious dwarf" in response. He later apologised.
In his letter, Burns also tells MPs from all parties that parliament is "in my veins" and that he would be "fair to all sides regardless of their political allegiance". In what may be a coded reference to Bercow's sometimes heavy-handed approach to MPs he feels are breaching parliamentary rules or decorum, Burns says he will maintain the smooth running of the chamber "with a light touch".
He adds: "It is important to carry colleagues with the Chair and to diffuse a difficult situation it is far better to use humour where appropriate or persuasion."
As well as Burns, several other MPs have put their name forward for the position of deputy Speaker - which comes with a £36,000 pay-packet on top of the £66,000 MPs salary. The job became vacant after Evans stepped down from the role to fight charges of sexual assault.
The favourite, Conservative Eleanor Laing, petitioned MPs by stressing her track record of "standing up for Parliament against overbearing governments – of all political colours" and said despite her obvious "strong political views" her "overriding loyalty" was to "parliament and the democratic process".
In her letter, seen by HuffPost UK, Laing writes: "I have no ulterior motive nor any negative reason for wanting to join the Speaker’s team. I am a serious candidate for a serious job."
"I am passionate about freedom through democracy and the role of the House of Commons as the forum for national debate." She adds: "A colleague said to me, 'For such a small person you don’t half have a powerful voice!'. I guess that is true. "
One of the more controversial candidates for the position is Nadine Dorries. The Mid Bedfordshire MP is no fan of David Cameron and makes no secret of what she thinks of other politicians - recently bemoaning the promotion of one "nasty" Tory colleague to the government as a "Very. Bad. Decision".
In her letter to backbenchers, which has also been published previously, Dorries insists: "I don’t think anyone can doubt that I am possibly the most impartial MP in the House of Commons."
In a call for diversity in the post, she adds: "It is difficult as a northern, working class female to get anywhere in parliament and I hope you would consider this as a reason why I am asking for your help."
To win the position candidates need support from across the Commons, not just from their own party. In recognition that many on the Labour benches (as well as her own) have strong opinions about her strong opinions, as well as her manner, Dorries writes: "If you don’t agree with my position on abortion, this would be a good way to shut me up!"
Brian Binley, the backbench Tory who has announced he will step down from the Commons in 2015 has also put his name forward. In his letter to MPs setting out the reasons they should vote for him he explains it would mean "a new Speaker team" could be chosen after the election. "This will give an opportunity for many more candidates next time, who may for whatever reason be unable to stand at this election," he writes.
Binley adds: "The House is reasserting itself, and I would like to see this go further with a new era of respect for MPs both in and outside Westminster. MPs from all parties enter public service with the right intentions and the right motives. That message needs to get across. Similarly, the exemplary work of our Select Committees needs greater recognition and emphasis."
MPs who wish to become deputy Speaker have also enlisted friends to plead their case on their behalf. In a letter sent by Labour's Dave Anderson expressing support for Binley, he says: "We have, to put it mildly, a wide range of candidates vying for our love and affection in the deputy Speakers ballot. We are really spoilt for choice (he lied!!)."
The election for deputy Speaker of the Commons will take place next week, on Wednesday 16 October.
Simon Burns' Letter To MPs
I am writing to you to explain why I am seeking election to the Office of Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons and asking you if you would be kind enough to consider voting for me in this important election.
The role of the Deputy Speakers in the House of Commons is to ensure the smooth running of the House of Commons, both in the Chamber and on the Parliamentary Estate. My 26 years experience as an MP leads me to believe that I am more than qualified to fulfil this role. Parliament is in my veins. My experience as both a Government and Opposition Whip has given me an invaluable understanding of the workings of the Commons and how to relate to and work with a wide variety of different colleagues.
I strongly believe that the most important qualities a Deputy Speaker must have is to be fair – fair to all sides regardless of their political allegiance – and firm in ensuring the smooth running of the Chamber, but with a light touch. It is important to carry colleagues with the Chair and to diffuse a difficult situation it is far better to use humour where appropriate or persuasion.
The Deputy Speakers are elected by and responsible to the House of Commons and they work closely with the Speaker of the House of Commons. It is no secret that the Speaker and I are not the closest of friends, but you do not need to be close friends to carry out the job successfully. The crucial ingredient is to do the job professionally and in the best interests of the House of Commons itself. In all my jobs in Parliament, whether in Government or Opposition, I have always behaved in a highly professional way, working with a wide range of different people. I have no reason to doubt that the Speaker is equally professional and we would be able to forge a professional working relationship, to the benefit of the smooth running of the House of Commons.
Sadly, this election has been caused due to unexpected circumstances and the situation which Nigel Evans finds himself in. Should he wish to return to the position he was elected to for the lifetime of this Parliament after the Court case, then I would be prepared to stand down to facilitate this.
I hope I may be able to count on your support in the election next Wednesday.
The Rt. Hon. Simon Burns MP
Eleanor Laing's Letter To MPs
The Speaker has announced that the election for Deputy Speaker will be held next Wednesday, 16th October. I have been very pleased at the number of colleagues, from all parties, who have encouraged me to stand. I am grateful for their support and I am definitely going to throw my hat in the ring.
Having served in the House for sixteen years I hope to serve for many more. I am totally committed to Parliament. I have been fortunate to have had a wide range of experience in many roles. Much more importantly, however, I am passionate about freedom through democracy and the role of the House of Commons as the forum for national debate.
I have a proven record of standing up for Parliament against overbearing governments – of all political colours! Although I obviously have strong political views and fight fiercely for what I believe in, my overriding loyalty to parliament and the democratic process makes it easy for me to be impartial when impartiality is called for.
I have no ulterior motive nor any negative reason for wanting to join the Speaker’s team. I am a serious candidate for a serious job.
A colleague said to me, “For such a small person you don’t half have a powerful voice!”. I guess that is true. I hope you will give me the chance to use that voice to uphold the rights of the backbenches and the dignity of the House of Commons.
Eleanor Laing MP
Nadine Dorries' Letter To MPs
I shall be writing to you personally, however, I am emailing now to ask if you would possibly consider voting for me in the forthcoming deputy Leadership election and if you cannot give me your first vote, would you consider giving me your second?
The paramount quality for a Deputy Speaker position is impartiality. I don’t think anyone can doubt that I am possibly the most impartial MP in the House of Commons and I do believe I have demonstrated my commitment to fairness via my role as a committee chair on the Speakers panel.
Since the 2009 expenses crisis I have been a known defender of MPs and continue to tackle IPSA on a regular basis.
If you don’t agree with my position on abortion, this would be a good way to shut me up!
I haven’t agreed a pact with Nigel but would stand down without hesitation should he return as a matter of honour and decency.
I am obviously not the No 10 candidate, something which in the election of a Deputy Speaker should not exist.
It is difficult as a northern, working class female to get anywhere in parliament and I hope you would consider this as a reason why I am asking for your help.
Whichever way you vote, thanks for reading this far and I hope if you feel you can’t vote for me, you would consider giving me your second vote.
Yours with very best wishes,
Brian Binley's Letter To MPs
You may know that I have decided to stand for election as Deputy Speaker.
I want to set down the reasons for my decision.
First and foremost, I believe that the office of Deputy Speaker is one of the most important in the House, and is especially needful of someone who understands and appreciates of the importance of fairness for all members, from both minor and major parties, and the need to allow all backbenchers a voice on behalf of their constituents’.
Secondly, I believe that the Speaker’s Department can play an influential role with IPSA – whilst still protecting taxpayers’ interests. IPSA must not impede the necessary work of Members of Parliament. I believe IPSA can and must improve its service to all MPs, and the Speaker’s department is well placed to help in this regard.
My contribution to the House of Commons has always from the backbenches. Therefore, I will be a voice for the backbenches – not for any particular party. I believe that the culture of patronage is still too resonant in our corridors.
The House is reasserting itself, and I would like to see this go further with a new era of respect for MPs both in and outside Westminster. MPs from all parties enter public service with the right intentions and the right motives. That message needs to get across. Similarly, the exemplary work of our Select Committees needs greater recognition and emphasis.
Consistent with that approach, my campaign is embedded in the grass-roots of the House: I am the recipient of no endorsement or support-in-kind from either Downing Street or the Speaker’s Office. I enjoy support from across all parties in the House, but my candidature is grounded in, and supported by, individual MPs.
Further, following the announcement of my decision to stand-down from the House in 2015, my election now would facilitate the opportunity to elect a new Speaker team in the next Parliament. This will give an opportunity for many more candidates next time, who may for whatever reason be unable to stand at this election.
I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you should you have any questions about my candidature.
I am grateful for all those colleagues, from across the House, who have already said they would support me. I am humbled.
I hope you will support me as your ‘first choice’ candidate. However, if you are already committed to another candidate, I hope you will still allow me your second vote.
It is time to give all backbenchers the respect they deserve.
Gary Streeter's Letter To MPs
The Speaker yesterday announced the process for electing the Deputy Speaker and I wanted to write to let you know that I will be putting my name forward.
The qualities and experience desirable in a Deputy Speaker were carefully set out by the Procedure Committee (HC770) in 2002 as follows:
· The ability to swiftly command the respect of the House;
· A thorough knowledge of procedure and the wider workings of the House;
· To be a good team player and possess a sense of humour and proportion;
· A serving member of the Chairmen’s Panel; and
· The ability to chair the most challenging debates with fairness and authority.
I would like to think that if Parliamentary head-hunters were engaged to identify a member matching this profile, they would beat a path to my door.
I have set out here how I believe I measure up to these challenges as a result of serving in the House for over twenty years on the backbenches, Government Whips’ Office, a minister under John Major, the Shadow Cabinet and for the past five years as a member of the Chairmen’s Panel including recently chairing the EU Referendum Bill and the Same Sex Marriage Act. Have a click if you would like to read more.
I would be delighted if you would consider giving me your support – and second preferences are always welcome!
If you have any questions then please let me know.