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Tributes to the Speaker

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:36 pm on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington Independent, Watford 12:36 pm, 31st October 2019

You have been given careers advice today, Mr Speaker, by people rather more experienced than I am, particularly the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), but I have been thinking a lot about this. At first I thought that perhaps you could be the host of the Radio 4 programme “Just a Minute”, but, given your experience, can you imagine no deviation, hesitation or repetition? No chance!

Then I thought of a programme of my childhood, which older Members may recall; you may recall it, Mr Speaker, and the Leader of the House may as well. I thought that there might be a remake of the programme “Call My Bluff”. You could be the Frank Muir character. Let me explain for the benefit of younger Members that each of the members of one panel would give a definition of an English word—most of the people listening would have no idea what it meant—and the others had to decide which version of was correct. “Chunter” is a good example, and now you have made it into a household word, Mr Speaker. It can be a verb, an adverb, a noun —almost anything.

You are the only Speaker who has been in the post during my time in the House, and I think that you have been a very fair, very decent and very honourable Speaker. Given the nonsense that you have put up with—here, in the press and everywhere else—it is to your credit that you have seen your way through it all. Your system, Mr Speaker, is based on what my children and my former employees have called my system: parenting and management by sarcasm. I think you should be very proud of that, because you have taken it to a new level. Sarcasm can be used as a way to control 650 people—as well as my children and my former employees.

You have fans everywhere, Mr Speaker. My mother has a large photograph of you on her mantelpiece at home, and I am continually asked, “Why can’t you be like John Bercow?” Harriet Rainbow in my office, the doyenne of the Watford parliamentary office, is also a big fan.

Every time I have stood up to speak in the Chamber, I have said, “Thank you, Mr Speaker”—so I will finish by saying, “Thank you, Mr Speaker.”