Speaker Bercow to give advice to gay rights groups on how to lobby Parliament
Next week’s one day event is set to be attended by representatives from more than 40 homosexual organisations, and according to the promotional flyer it will teach “how LGB&T groups and communities can effectively engage with Parliament”. The afternoon features a talk and a question and answer session with Mr Bercow.This story cannot possibly be true, and not only because gay-rights lobbyists appear to need no assistance at all to enhance their effectiveness. It is questionable because the Speaker of the House of Commons has to be beyond reproach when it comes to lobbying, and beyond dispute when it comes to impartiality. It is inconceivable that Speaker Bercow would compromise this great Office of State by associating disproportionately or identifying unequally with any one side on any disputatious matter. His role is that of an impartial presiding officer.
The Christian Institute has simply got the wrong end of the stick on this one: they are, as we know, notoriously unreliable. Can you imagine the uproar if this turned out to be true? Lynne Featherstone, Equalities Minister, has recently announced a government consultation on marriage laws, the aim of which is to move towards straight civil partnerships and gay marriage. It is therefore all the more inconceivable that the Speaker of the House of Commons would coach gay-rights lobbyists at this time, thereby potentially alienating those who already feel that gay rights trump religious liberty.
The Christian Institute tells us that Paul Martin, Chief Executive of the Lesbian & Gay Foundation, said he was ‘delighted’ by the Speaker’s agreement to address the gathering. He said: “At the moment LGB&T people are under-represented in UK Parliament and politics, and we sincerely hope that this event will inspire LGB&T people to take a more active role in politics. Of course, we are delighted to welcome John Bercow MP to Manchester, he brings with him a wealth of experience in both Parliament and politics.”
Usually His Grace would probe a little on how Mr Martin could possibly know that LGB&T people are under-represented in Parliament, not least because no survey has been done and it is not remotely likely that every MP is ‘out and proud’. But, on this occasion, His Grace has no choice but to question the veracity of this entire article.
Speaker Bercow simply would not engage in an ‘exercise in politically-correct box ticking’. He may be ‘proud of his record on pushing for equality on gender, race, disability, age or sexual orientation’, but, as Speaker, he will now be mindful of and sensitive to issues of religious liberty.
In 2006, he may have ‘advocated that 10 per cent of Commissioner posts on the powerful Equality and Human Rights Commission be reserved and guaranteed for homosexuals’. But then he was a lowly MP. His role has now changed.
In 2007, he may have advocated that ‘Bishops should lose the right to sit in the House of Lords’ because ‘there is no case to be made for reserved, ex officio, guaranteed religious representation in the second Chamber’. But he was then a mere parliamentary backbencher.
No, the Office of Speaker in the Uinted Kingdom Parliament has developed into a convention of scrupulous political neutrality. He has no voice other than that granted by Parliament; he has no eyes other than those opened by Parliament; he has no vote to influence on any matter, save to rescue the Government from collapse should a crucial division result in a tie. The Christian Institute are being alarmist; they are inciting insecurity by disseminating scurrilous disinformation; they are being utterly irresponsible. It cannot be the case that Speaker Bercow would seek to influence MPs vocariously to his worldview. It simply cannot be. The chances of this story being true are therefore 0 per cent. Absolutely. Without doubt.