Harriet Harman launches Speaker bid – and says constituents back her campaign to mend relationship between “people and Parliament”

Katherine Johnston (11 September, 2019) Politics

'A woman in the chair would show that Parliament is very different from the old boys’ club it used to be'

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Harriet Harman launched a campaign to run for Speaker of the House of Commons this week, saying she could help “mend the relationship between people and Parliament” after three years of Brexit wrangling.

The Camberwell and Peckham MP, who is the longest serving female MP, threw her hat into the ring on Tuesday morning, shortly after John Bercow’s resignation during parliament’s last sitting on Monday. If convention is followed, the next Speaker would be a Labour member.

Harman told the News: “I’m putting myself forward because it is such a difficult time for parliament. When we are divided, parliament has never been more important. I want to help mend the relationship between the people and parliament.”

In an email to her constituency party members sent on Tuesday morning, Harman attempted to assuage concerns the role would impact on her ability to serve her constituents.

Since holding onto her seat in 2017, Harman says she and her team have helped more than 10,000 people, including those with housing, benefits and immigration problems.

Speaking to the News she was firm that case work, supporting the community, and helping bereaved families are “not at all incompatible” with being Speaker, and the job would never take her away from those responsibilities.

Furthermore, she said she had the support of many of her constituents who value Britain’s democratic tradition, including those who have lived in unstable or undemocratic regimes.

“People recognise that Parliament is the foundation stone of our democracy,” she told the News.

“There are many people who have come to make their home in Camberwell and Peckham from around the world and they know how important a position our Parliament has in the world stage, as the mother of all Parliaments.”

Although Harman had been mooted as a possible leader of a National Unity Government, she has rubbished claims she had been in talks with Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson to put herself forward over Jeremy Corbyn.

As Speaker, she would be unable to debate and, through paired voting, remain neutral. She would also have to step down as chair of the Human Rights Committee.

But as the second woman speaker in Parliament’s 600-year history she could put her own stamp on proceedings: “Parliament has changed, we have over 200 women members. A woman in the chair would show that Parliament is very different from the old boys’ club it used to be,” she said.

“There is a lot of strife and there is a lot of anger. People will have their disagreements and their arguments, but they need to stop short of threats, violence and thuggery.”

But first she will have to win the vote and beat her rivals – including deputy speaker Lindsay Hoyle – and avoid any threat of deselection come November, when her constituency party members will vote on whether or not she should automatically remain as a Labour candidate for her seat – or face open selection.

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