St Bride's: Sermons

Why choosing the right Speaker for the House of Commons matters

The Speaker of the House of Commons is an ancient and prestigious office. As presiding officer of the House and regulator of debates he or she is expected to be completely impartial and is known as the "First Commoner of the Realm".

This ancient office has recently come under the spotlight both because of the MP's expenses scandal, and because the last incumbent was widely seen as not up to the job. Public scrutiny of the next Speaker will be intense, as never before, and he/she will have a tough job to rebuild the dignity and authority of the office.

Why does this matter? Because the credibility and authority of Parliament is being questioned in the wake of recent events, and the speaker can do much to restore that. We need someone who is firm, authoritative but who can exercise a light touch and show a sense of humour. We also need someone who is not only acceptable to MPs but also to the public. My preference would be for either Frank Field or Anne Widdecombe both of whom are personalities in their own right.

These issues matter from the Christian perspective too, because, as both Old and New Testaments recognize, good government is vital for human flourishing. If we have confidence in our institutions of state we will be able to live ordered lives in freedom and peace and build a society in which individuals are valued and respected and cared for as children of our heavenly Father, and are therefore helped to grow to their full potential. I don't pretend that the Speaker in Parliament is solely responsible for this, but a good Speaker will help to restore Parliament's reputation and thus strengthen one of the vital democratic institutions of society. Let's pray that the right choice is made when the next Speaker is elected, because the wrong choice would be disastrous for the Parliamentary process.

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