On November 4 the MP for Chorley, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, was elected as Speaker of the House of Commons.
This prestigious new job has some important implications, both for Sir Lindsay and his constituents in Chorley, changing some of the ways that politics will be experienced for all involved.
After replacing John Bercow as Speaker, Sir Lindsay is now the main umpire of the House of Commons. He is responsible for choosing some of the issues that get discussed in the chamber, for choosing who gets to speak and how long they get to speak for, and for maintaining parliamentary rules.
Having already served as Deputy Speaker for several years, some aspects of the job will be familiar to Sir Lindsay. For example, he has already got experience at maintaining order in the Commons, chastising MPs when they inevitably make too much noise. Indeed, a number of videos can be found online of him telling MPs off for poor behaviour.
Other aspects of the job, however, will be less familiar. Over the past few years Brexit has dominated British politics and MPs have, at times, tested the boundaries of how Parliament usually works. In these moments Speaker Bercow was forced to make important decisions on how Parliament’s rules should be interpreted, often choosing the option that maximised the influence of backbenchers.
Due to the polarising nature of Brexit, these rulings have been controversial, and Sir Lindsay is likely to find himself in the unenviable position of having to make similar tough decisions in the near future.
Inevitably, these procedural decisions will please some and upset others, and this increased level of power and scrutiny will be new to Sir Lindsay.
What he will decide to do in these difficult circumstances remains to be seen, however, he is widely perceived as being pretty ‘straight down the middle’. His decisions will likely be carefully considered, based on expert advice, and motivated by what he believes to be best for Parliament.
The new role, however, doesn’t just impact Sir Lindsay. It also has some impact on his constituents in Chorley. As Speaker, Sir Lindsay is expected to be a neutral arbiter of parliamentary proceedings. As such, he won’t be able to vote in the Commons (unless there’s a tie), he won’t be able to take stands on political issues, and he will likely need to spend more time in London than he has in the past.
Obviously, this will have some impact on the way that Chorley is represented in Parliament, but it certainly doesn’t leave them without representation.
Sir Lindsay is still an MP and therefore will still engage in constituency work. He’s probably not going to be as present in local politics as he once was, but constituents will still be able to contact him to discuss the problems that they have. Indeed, having already served as Deputy Speaker for a few years, most of this is unchanged.
It’s even possible that the transition from Deputy Speaker to Speaker will enhance some aspects of Sir Lindsay’s ability to represent Chorley.
When asked about how he represented his constituents, the previous Speaker argued that his job made it easier to arrange meetings with key government ministers. According to Bercow, while backbench MPs might struggle to get a few minutes with ministers to discuss important constituency issues, the Speaker can relatively easily arrange meetings with members of the government to privately discuss issues raised by constituents.
Now he is Speaker, Sir Lindsay should similarly find it easier to communicate the issues raised by his constituents to the people with the power to address them.
Of course, all of this assumes Sir Lindsay manages to keep his seat in the upcoming general election, which is also impacted by his new job. As Speaker, he is no longer a member of the Labour Party. On polling day Sir Lindsay will appear on the ballot paper as ‘Speaker seeking re-election’, and by convention the other major parties should leave the seat uncontested. Not all of the parties have confirmed they will be following this convention yet, but it is the standard practice.
This arrangement could, understandably, leave some people in Chorley feeling disenfranchised. However, constituents will still be able to fill out a ballot paper on polling day. Even if the major parties do stand aside, we will almost certainly see some candidates run in Chorley as independents or as members of the smaller parties, bringing a little bit of variety for those that don’t want to vote for Sir Lindsay. As such, while the big parties are unlikely to contend the seat, other options will be available to constituents on polling day.
Overall then, Sir Lindsay’s new job will bring changes both for him and for his constituents. He will now be sat in the middle of British politics and the procedural decisions he makes will have an impact on UK policymaking.
For his constituents in Chorley, Sir Lindsay’s new position will impact both the way that they will be represented in Westminster and the candidates that they can vote for in the upcoming general election.
To some these new arrangements will be unsatisfactory, but it’s important to remember that people will still be able to contact Sir Lindsay about the issues they are facing and will still be able to vote on polling day. Ultimately then, while his new job will in a limited sense change the way that Chorley interacts with British politics, it certainly won’t cut the constituency off from it.
* Thomas Eason is a doctoral researcher based at the University of Nottingham’s School of Politics and International Relations.