The Speaker is an MP who has been elected to act as Chairman during debates in the House of Commons. He or she is responsible for ensuring that the rules laid down by the House for the carrying out of its business are observed. It is the Speaker who calls MPs to speak, and maintains order in the House. He or she acts as the House's representative in its relations with outside bodies and the other elements of Parliament such as the Lords and the Monarch. The Speaker is also responsible for protecting the interests of minorities in the House. He or she must ensure that the holders of an opinion, however unpopular, are allowed to put across their view without undue obstruction. It is also the Speaker who reprimands, on behalf of the House, an MP brought to the Bar of the House. In the case of disobedience the Speaker can 'name' an MP which results in their suspension from the House for a period. The Speaker must be impartial in all matters. He or she is elected by MPs in the House of Commons but then ceases to be involved in party politics. All sides in the House rely on the Speaker's disinterest. Even after retirement a former Speaker will not take part in political issues. Taking on the office means losing close contact with old colleagues and keeping apart from all groups and interests, even avoiding using the House of Commons dining rooms or bars. The Speaker continues as a Member of Parliament dealing with constituent's letters and problems. By tradition other candidates from the major parties do not contest the Speaker's seat at a General Election. The Speakership dates back to 1377 when Sir Thomas Hungerford was appointed to the role. The title Speaker comes from the fact that the Speaker was the official spokesman of the House of Commons to the Monarch. In the early years of the office, several Speakers suffered violent deaths when they presented unwelcome news to the King. Further information can be obtained from factsheet M2 on the UK Parliament website.
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