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U.K. Parliament to Elect Replacement to Speaker John Bercow



John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United Kingdom

The U.K. Parliament will elect a new speaker on Monday to replace John Bercow before it dissolves for the country’s general election in just over five weeks.

The vote will probably be the last major decision of this Parliament, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called “dead” and repeatedly attacked for stymieing his Brexit plan.

When Parliament dissolves on Wednesday, it will mark the official start of the campaign. Not all current members of parliament who vote for the new speaker will return. Some, like Bercow, are stepping down, while others may lose their seats in the Dec. 12 poll.

Bercow’s rulings during Brexit debates have made him the most controversial speakers in recent memory, while his idiosyncratic style made him a minor celebrity in the U.K. and overseas. His decision last month not to allow Johnson to hold a second vote on his Brexit deal — two days after members had rejected it — played a key role in the premier failing to get it passed in time for the Oct. 31 deadline.

His deputy Lindsey Hoyle is seen as the favorite to win the ballot, according to bookmaker Ladbrokes. The Labour MP has framed himself as an “antidote” to Bercow and said his style of using humor can diffuse tensions, whereas Bercow’s bellicose remarks can add fuel to the fire.

The speaker has a pivotal role in Parliament, shaping debates, ordering politicians to stop speaking, and smoothing proceedings in what can be a rowdy lower chamber.

On Saturday, Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster said he won’t be standing again, following Culture Minister Nicky Morgan a few days earlier. Along with their former Conservative Heidi Allen, they cited abuse for doing their job.

But the “exhaustive ballot” voting system could deliver a surprise result on Monday. If no candidate wins a majority, the individual with the fewest votes is eliminated and MPs continue voting until one candidate gets a majority.

Labour member Harriet Harman and Eleanor Laing, who also were deputies for the 56-year-old Bercow, are seen as the closest rivals to Mr Hoyle among the eight expected candidates.

Speakers have the power to select amendments, and rule on which motions are in order for the House to consider. Amendments have been one of the key tools MPs have used to take control of the daily agenda and shape the UK’s divorce from the European Union. That includes the Benn Act, which forced Mr Johnson to request a delay to the Oct. 31 deadline.

The election adds a new level of unpredictability to the decision, as some MPs may already be in their constituencies campaigning rather than in London to vote for the new Speaker.

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