LONDON (AP) — Long-serving Labour Party lawmaker Lindsay Hoyle was elected speaker of Britain’s House of Commons on Monday, taking up the job with a clear message: I’m not John Bercow.
Hoyle was chosen by lawmakers from among seven candidates to replace the influential but contentious Bercow. Bercow retired last week after a decade as speaker that saw him become a central player in Britain’s Brexit drama.
Hoyle took 325 of the 540 votes in a runoff with Labour colleague Chris Bryant after the seven-member field was winnowed down in three previous voting rounds.
After his election, Hoyle was dragged to the speaker’s chair by colleagues with a show of reluctance — a tradition dating back to the days when speakers could be sentenced to death if they displeased the monarch.
He vowed to bring a change of tone and temperament to a political system that has been strained by Brexit; to restore Parliament’s battered reputation and to be “neutral” and “transparent.”
Hoyle remarked that lawmakers have “got to make sure that tarnish is polished away.”
He said the House of Commons will change, “but it will change for the better.”
Hoyle, 62, was elected to Parliament in 1997, has served as one of the three deputy speakers since 2010 and is widely popular and respected by colleagues. Like Bercow, he will run the daily business of the Commons.
With his northern English accent and blunt manner, Hoyle has a contrasting style to the verbose Bercow. And he is likely to adopt a more cautious approach than that taken by Bercow, who prided himself on making the government answer to Parliament and became a thorn in the side of the Conservative administration.
The speaker is supposed to be an impartial arbiter of Parliament’s rules, but critics accused Bercow of favoring anti-Brexit politicians at the expense of those supporting Britain’s departure from the European Union.
As Parliament wrangled angrily for months over Brexit, Bercow became a celebrity around the world with his garish ties, bellowed calls of “Or-derrr!” and sharp-tongued rebukes to noisy lawmakers “chuntering from a sedentary position.”
Bercow denied Brexit bias, but clashed with the government, and strongly opposed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attempt to suspend Parliament for five weeks as an Oct. 31 Brexit deadline approached. The U.K. Supreme Court overturned Johnson’s shutdown.
Bercow also interpreted Parliament’s rules in ways that let lawmakers direct the government’s hand at key moments. One such move forced Johnson to ask the EU to delay Brexit until Jan. 31, the current deadline.
The new speaker is set to oversee months more of high-stakes debate and votes over Brexit.
Conservative lawmaker Charles Walker, who backed Hoyle, said he hoped the new speaker would bring “a period of calm and reflection.”
Johnson, the prime minister, told Hoyle in the House of Commons that he was sure the new speaker would bring his “signature kindness and reasonableness to our proceedings, and thereby … help to bring us together as a Parliament and a democracy.”
Four of the speaker candidates were women — Eleanor Laing, Rosie Winterton, Harriet Harman and Meg Hillier — but the winner was a man, just like all but one of his 157 predecessors.
Betty Boothroyd, who served from 1992 to 2000, is the only female speaker in U.K. House of Commons history.
The selection of a new speaker came a day before Parliament was to be dissolved for a Dec. 12 national election in which all 650 seats in the House of Commons are up for grabs. Johnson’s Conservatives are hoping to win a majority that could unblock Britain’s political deadlock and let Johnson fulfill his pledge to take Britain out of the EU.
The opposition left-of-center Labour Party is trying to shift the campaign’s focus from Brexit to domestic political issues such as schools, health care and Britain’s social inequities.
The centrist Liberal Democrats, who want to cancel Brexit, and the single-issue Brexit Party, which favors a no-deal exit from the bloc, are battling for British voters with strong views on whether the U.K. should quit the 28-nation EU.
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