FORMER British Labour Party deputy leader and the member of parliament for Peckham Harriet Harman has confirmed she will run to become the next House of Commons speaker when the incumbent John Bercow stands down.
Amidst incessant spats between the government and Parliament over the vexed Brexit issue, Mr Bercow has said that he would stand down by 31 October. Today, Ms Harman MP, the Mother of the House, being the longest continuously-serving female member of Parliament and lawmaker representing the area of London with the highest concentration of Nigerians, said she will seek to replace Mr Bercow to ensure Parliament can have its say.
Other MPs intending to stand include Sir Edward Leigh of the Conservative Party and the Pete Wishart of the Scottish National Party. Ms Harman, who is known for her campaigning on women’s rights, said the next speaker must be scrupulously neutral on debates and praised Mr Bercow.
She said: “This is a Parliament in very difficult times as we have got very divided times in the country and Parliament itself is divided. I think what Parliament has to do, and the speaker has to do, is to ensure that Parliament can have its say and that is what John Bercow has sought to do.
“Once you offer yourself for election as speaker, you are making a promise you will set your party aside and be neutral, so whoever is speaker will have to go through that transition. I think the relationship between Parliament and public is very difficult at the moment and I think a really confident, positive voice speaking about the importance of Parliament with the public is necessary at this time.”
Ms Harman became the MP for Peckham, later Camberwell and Peckham during a by-election in 1982 and has remained in her seat ever since. She went to the exclusive St Paul’s Girls’ School in London and read politics at York University, before training as a solicitor.
She was rapidly promoted during Labour’s years in opposition in the 1980s and 1990s, before becoming Tony Blair’s secretary of state for social security and minister for women. Despite being sacked over welfare reform, she returned to government in 2001 as solicitor-general, then secretary of state at the department for constitutional affairs and under Gordon Brown, became deputy leader.
She has a reputation as a steely feminist, once joking she was unlikely to become prime minister as there was not enough space at airports for the men who would try to leave the country. Ms Harman is married to fellow Labour MP Jack Dromey and has three children.
Mr Bercow has faced fierce criticism from Brexiteers, who have questioned his impartiality on the issue of Europe and claim he has facilitated efforts by MPs opposed to a no-deal exit to take control of the House of Commons business. He has also been criticised for not doing more to tackle allegations of bullying and harassment in the House of Commons.