Monday, 27 September 2010

Distorting Westminster


This morning it was the turn of the Liberal Member for Fadden Stewart Robert to display his ignorance for the benefit at the Canberra ritual of the doors. With the subject of the day for the gaggle of journalists being the election tomorrow of a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Stewart, a comparative parliamentary newcomer just about to start his second term, pronounced that “the Westminster system requires the government to provide a Speaker”. Which is simply nonsense because the House of Commons, sitting in the Palace of Westminster, requires no such thing.
Now it is true that only once in the 20th century was someone elected Speaker for the first time not a member of the governing party but subsequent elections saw those once chosen re-elected until they retired irrespective of which party had become the government.
And then there was the exception of 1992 when Labour’s Betty Boothroyd became the first female Speaker of the House of Commons when the Government was Conservative. That precedent of choosing a presiding officer from the ranks of the opposition party was followed in 2009 when the Conservative MP John Bercow was elected despite there being a Labour Government.
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