Richard Shepherd for Speaker
It is unacceptable that there should be a third consecutive Labour Speaker, and objectionable that anyone embroiled in the expenses fiasco or who opposed Freedom of Information legislation should be elevated to the role. It is equally inconceivable that anyone should be proclaimed the First Commoner in the Land with the whipped support mainly of one party. Having forced out Speaker Martin because of his inept partisan behaviour, his own financial scandal and his own attempts to block the disclosure of MPs’ expenses, it would be scandal upon scandal to elevate someone who is guilty of the same sins, vices and crimes. With the reputation and standing of Parliament at an all-time low, today’s choice is constitutionally too important and politically too sensitive to play partisan politics with the process. The next Speaker must not only carry the confidence of the House but restore the trust of the people; he or she must possess integrity, be scrupulously moral and beyond reproach.
Richard Shepherd is not a favourite; indeed, he is completely beneath most people’s radar. But he is independently-minded, understands the meaning and importance of sovereignty, and loves Parliament. He was selected as 'Backbencher of the Year' in 1985 and was The Spectator’s 'Parliamentarian of the Year' in 1995. In 1989, he was identified by his peers to be one of the ten most effective MPs in Parliament. He is untouched by scandal, has consistently supported openness and accountability, and has not fleeced the taxpayer. His radiates humility, and expresses a genuine warmth and respect for his fellow man.
Today’s choice of Speaker is quite possibly the most significant in the entire history of the office. And it is an opportunity for Parliamentarians to break with the past. The ‘old faces’ are not going to persuade anyone that anything will change; indeed, pace Ann Widecombe, they are most likely to represent the continuance of patronage and the perpetuation of the dominance of the Executive. The next Speaker must not only promise change but must be symbolic of it. This requires the sort of manifestation of transformation which can only be attained by a discontinuous incarnation.
Cranmer is not alone in this choice.
Douglas Carswell MP is also of the opinion that Speaker Shepherd is the right man to clean up Parliament:
Firstly, his own expense claims have been very modest. Secondly, he campaigned for Freedom of Information law years before it became fashionable. Together that gives him the moral authority to force transparency on an unwilling tribe in SW1.
Better than anyone else I’ve met in four years in the Commons, Richard understands that sovereignty of Parliament is shorthand for sovereignty of the people.
Too many in Westminster see the Speaker’s contest through the prism of self-interest. They seem to want to elect a shop steward for politicians, rather than a Speaker able to restore public faith in the political process.
Richard grasps that change must also mean making those we elect effective at holding government to account. Parliament needs back its purpose. He’s ideas on how it is to be done.
Speaker Shepherd would be no apologist for indolent politicians blinded by a sense of entitlement – but he would make them answer properly to you.
Guido Fawkes observes:
It is a shame that Richard Shepherd is not in the running. A thoroughly decent man with a longstanding record of support for freedom of information who is also among the lowest expense claiming MPs. So he won’t win of course…
While Speaker Shepherd is not a likely outcome of today’s vote, it is certainly not one which should be written off. Parliament could, and probably will, do a whole lot worse.