Vince Cable would be wasted as Speaker

I’m dismayed by the number of political mavericks being talked up in the media as possible replacements for Michael Martin when he steps down as Speaker of the House of Commons next month.

The Speaker’s job is absolutely not one for a maverick. Although, in the new climate, the role will involve some far reaching reforms to the workings of the House works, much of this will be about changing processes and procedures. This is not the sort of work that mavericks usually enjoy or are good at. Furthermore, a key part of the Speaker’s role is to enforce these rules, which requires a detailed procedural knowledge, again not something that most mavericks relish.

But, apart from the probability that a slightly eccentric MP would not enjoy the role, giving a maverick the Speaker’s job would effectively silence him. Tradition demands that the Speaker rises above party politics. To put a maverick in such a role would suppress his or her off-the-wall views at a time when we need them most.

Parliament is full of lobby-fodder MPs who toe the party line. As it is, we have precious few MPs who are prepared to break ranks. The last thing we need is for one of them to be emasculated by the Speaker’s vow of political silence.

Do we really want to lose the radical voice of Frank Field, or the free-roaming vote of Richard Taylor, or the liberal-conservative-radical-reactionary John Bercow? And above all, do we want the MP who was right about the economic crisis way before anyone else to sit silently in the Speaker’s chair during what may yet be the worst recession in living memory?

Let someone solid and dependable do the job of Speaker. Vince Cable will be better employed pointing out the flaws in the economic policies of this government. And those of the next one.

Update: Vince Cable has said he doesn’t want the Speaker’s job, succinctly summing up what I was trying to say in this post:

I want to be a player, not a referee.

That’s where we need him; on the pitch scoring goals against the government.

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