Son of cab driver is new British speaker

June 23rd, 2009 - 10:44 am ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, June 23 (IANS) The son of a taxi driver has been elected the new speaker of the British House of Commons, the world’s oldest parliament.

John Bercow, an opposition Tory MP who is said to be more popular among the ruling Labour benches than among his own party members, topped three secret ballots held in the House of Commons Monday.

The self-styled “clean-break candidate” promised change and reform after a long-running scandal over MPs’ dubious expenses forced the resignation of Speaker Michael Martin. Martin became the first Speaker in 300 years forced to step down after he was seen to be intervening in favour of guilty MPs.

Voting in the third and final ballot - after all other contenders, including Indian-born former minister Paramjit Dhanda - had been eliminated or dropped out was 322 for Bercow and 271 for his nearest rival, former Tory cabinet minister, Sir George Young.

The 46-year-old Bercow has strong working class roots - his father was a minicab driver - and has moved from the hard right of the Tory Party to centre-left. In the early 1980s, Bercow was secretary of the Immigration and Repatriation Committee of the far-right Monday Club that wanted to halt immigration from Commonwealth countries.

According to The Guardian, he then became chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students, which favoured racial segregation in South Africa and had to be closed down by the Tory party for running a “hang Mandela” campaign.

However, Bercow today is the only MP from his party who supports Labour equality legislation and is prepared to back a proposal for all-black shortlists for parliamentary seats.

“Even youngish men can acquire wisdom as time goes by,” he told MPs.

Bercow, who too has been named in the expenses scandal, believes the problem should be resolved outside parliament and backs a new independent body to set MPs allowances and pay.

He also believes MPs should get a substantial pay rise to put them alongside other professionals, such as doctors, who earn around 100,000 a year.

Dhanda, who by his own admission was not an “obvious choice” for the role of Speaker, won 26 votes and was eliminated in the first round. Dhanda said he was spurred into contesting the election by the recent of success of the anti-immigration British National Party in winning two seats in the European Parliament.

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