With just a few days before the House of Commons returns for the autumn term, the revolt against John Bercow’s plan to appoint Carol Mills as Clerk of the House is growing. Coffee House has seen a motion that a cross-party group of MPs plan to table to stop the Speaker in his tracks.
The motion, which I understand has the support of more than 50 MPs from all three main parties, including PPSs, does not attempt to block the appointment, but simply calls for a pre-appointment hearing and report (which could lead to a recommendation that Mills not be appointed). It says:
‘That this House believes that the recommendation of Ms Carol Mills to be Clerk of this House should be subject to, and contingent upon, a pre-appointment hearing and report by a select committee.’
The motion is likely to be tabled by Tory MP Jesse Norman, one of the leaders of the revolt against House of Lords reform. But MPs from across the spectrum are irritated by this appointment by the Speaker, and what seems to unite them is less a dislike for Bercow (although that is not unknown) and more a profound belief in the importance and power of the House of Commons. That was one of the reasons Norman and colleagues resisted reform of the Upper Chamber, because they feared it would undermine the primacy of the Commons. That the Speaker, who styles himself as the champion of Parliament who has empowered the Commons refuses to give MPs a voice on the appointment of the clerk rouses the same instinct in many MPs, whether or not they backed the Lords reform.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.