Thursday, June 08, 2006

A 75 word manifesto to be speaker – watch out Stormont

As part of the shake-up of the House of Lords, a Speaker is being elected for the first time, filling a role previously filled by the Lord Chancellor.

The winner gets a big office, two secretaries, £100k salary, £34k housing allowance, as well a black and gold robe to wear on formal occasions. The Lords’ Speaker is likely to be invited to all state occasions, alongside the Commons’ Speaker.

Nine candidates have entered the contest – three men, six women. Unlike all other political contests. it would apparently be undignified for individuals to campaign openly for the post. So, in a move consistent with the stereotyped image of the eccentric upper house, the candidates were allowed to write a 75 word statement to make their pitch.

Two of the contenders are openly proposing to keep the status quo and not use their position to interfere with the proceedings at the Lords.

“I believe in self-regulation in the House of Lords. I pledge, as Speaker I would do as little as possible in the chamber, apart from sitting on the Woolsack. Outside the chamber I would resist all attempts to increase the power of the Speaker.”

Lord Redesdale, 38, Liberal Democrat.

A bit like our local MLAs, who are taking a lot of money to fulfil a mostly ceremonial role by not doing much work up at Stormont.

I found myself sitting opposite Lord Alderdice – the first Speaker of the NI Assembly – on the Heathrow Express at lunchtime. It didn’t occur to me to ask him if he would have liked to have joined the case to be Speaker in the Lords. Next time.

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