Reminder of the forces at work

WEST Ham MP Lyn Brown, this week discusses in her exclusive Recorder column, her week in Parliament and being addressed as Prime Minister! She writes: IN a week that saw the election of a new Speaker, and that Speaker dispense with the ruffles, buckles a

WEST Ham MP Lyn Brown, this week discusses in her exclusive Recorder column, her week in Parliament and being addressed as Prime Minister!

She writes:

IN a week that saw the election of a new Speaker, and that Speaker dispense with the ruffles, buckles and britches of office, I found myself part of an arcane flummery of the Commons - and Prime Minister for a few seconds.

I am getting to grips with my new job of Government Whip - liaising with the House of Lords about amendments, sitting on the front bench moving various motions, and whipping the Equality Bill committee - but on Wednesday I could not quite believe the bizarre nature of this job.


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My task was officially to open the Westminster Hall chamber for debate. I sat on the front row of the Government benches, watching the clock tick around to 9.30.

Finally, my moment came: 9.30am exactly and the Chair looked down on me from his dais and said - "Prime Minister". Prime Minister - not words I would ever hope to hear addressed to me!!! But, in this instance, it was my cue to declare, "The sitting be adjourned," and, paradoxically, to open the debate.

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Earlier last week, I watched a victorious John Bercow, our new Speaker, being "dragged reluctantly" to his Chair by other MPs, as the tradition warrants. I must admit I did not see much reluctance. John ran a good campaign, and is hungry for the task.

He starts his new role - as I have done - after a period of huge Parliamentary upheaval. There is enormous pressure on John to deliver on reform.

The media report that Bercow's own party consider him to be "on probation" and he is described as being disliked by his own side. But our new Speaker is no Labour stooge. He draws support from across Parliament, as a good Speaker should.

John was not an "establishment" candidate. He made fun of that element of Parliament in his hustings speech, describing how an unnamed Tory MP declined to support his candidacy: "You are not just too young; you are far too young, given that, in my judgment, the Speaker ought to be virtually senile".

It was an amusing remark, but one that gently reminds us of the real forces of conservatism at work in Parliament. Bercow has got his work cut out.

I do hope, as a grammar school boy, and a member of the Tory party, he will face less of the nasty, unjustified vitriol than that which was heaped upon Michael Martin, who was a sheet-metal worker before he entered Parliament.

Bercow paid tribute to Speaker Martin as he departed. Praising his kindness, Bercow criticised the tabloid press who, " . . .seemed to think that the election of the son of a merchant seaman represented some kind of constitutional outrage".

The comments from Sir Nicholas Winterton about Michael Martin also stuck in my mind. "I think that if people had actually got to know you as an individual, a man of kindness; a man of humanity," he said, "some of the totally unjustified criticism would never have been spoken."

John wears a lounge suit, no ruffles, buckles or britches; he is trying to stamp an authority on the House and is beginning to make a mark. We face difficult times in Parliament, I wish him well.

If you have any comments on this column, please do get in touch. You can write to me at: Lyn Brown MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA, ring my office on (020) 7219 6999 or e-mail: brownl@parliament.uk

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