While the stakes are not as high as in the months before the English Civil War, when Speaker William Lenthall defied Charles I by asserting his allegiance to the liberty of Parliament above the monarch’s will after the king entered the chamber with 400 armed men demanding to seize five Parliamentarians accused of treason, there can be no doubt that the next Speaker’s decisions in the coming months and years will have major consequences for our democracy.
The country, which has been so deeply divided on Brexit that death threats to MPs are now a grimly regular occurrence, is in desperate need of a neutral, objective and trusted Speaker who can guide debates in an even-handed manner. Sir Lindsay Hoyle has been chosen to replace John Bercow after the latter’s decade of service which deeply divided opinion. To his supporters, Mr Bercow has emphasised the primacy of Parliament in our decision-making processes - something that many Brexiteers argued was one of their chief reasons for wanting to leave the EU.
But his opponents argue, with justification, that his controversial rulings on Brexit widely considered to favour Remain supporters has had the wider effect of leading many to question whether MPs really wish to deliver on the 2016 referendum result or are seeking to subvert it. Bullying allegations by former employees, denied by Mr Bercow, have also cast a cloud over his time as Speaker.
Wherever opinions lie on Mr Bercow, there can be no doubt the UK now needs a Speaker who can uphold the highest standards of the centuries-old office. It is time to put the role - and the House - back in order.