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Hear, hear!—[Laughter.] In all corners of this place there are good people who genuinely want to make the world a better place. Of course we all have different ideas about how we would do that but, even if we sometimes fall short, our intentions are, in a word, honourable.
I am very sad that so many hon. Members, whom I see as I look around the Chamber, have decided to leave the House tomorrow. It is time someone had the courage to defend Members of Parliament, not just inside this House but outside it as well. Defending Members of Parliament is what I will do if the House makes me Speaker, because failing to stand up for the honourable men and women who come to this place to do their public duty not only harms the individual MP but weakens Parliament in the eyes of the nation.
We all know that, beyond the Westminster bubble, there is real anxiety about the health of our democratic system. We need to rebuild confidence and trust in our politics, and it must begin with this election today. There are times for continuity and there are times for change. This is a time for change, and I want to be that change.
This is the 21st century, for goodness’ sake. We need to escape the overbearing and hierarchical structures that have made it all too easy for a culture of bullying to take root. As Deputy Speaker, I hope I have always discharged my duties with consistency, with courtesy and with kindness.
Despite being a lawyer, for which you will have to forgive me, I always try to remember that we are dealing not merely with rules and laws here; we are also dealing with the welfare of people. That is why the most urgent change I want to see is making the Speaker more accountable than at any time in our history. While I am at it, may I just say that it is not the role of the Speaker to say any more than needs to be said nor to take up time in this Chamber, especially when that robs Back Benchers of their precious speaking time? [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!] Well, I am glad someone agrees with allocated minutes.
The Speaker is not the ruler of the House of Commons but its servant. It is in that spirit that I ask the House to entrust to me this most historic and special role.