John Bercow has lost his biggest attempt at a power grab after MPs recommended that the appointment process for the Commons clerk be terminated. The governance committee set up after the row over the Speaker’s desire to appoint Carol Mills became too big to handle has called for a new director general job to be created and that and the Clerk job should be readvertised.
Now Mills can notionally re-apply for the job but would struggle to meet the new criteria set out by the committee. It says the Clerk is ‘adviser to the House of Commons on the procedure and practice of Parliament, including parliamentary privilege’. The row about Mills being considered for the role was sparked by her lack of experience in this area.
This is of course a victory for anyone who dislikes John Bercow, whether for personal or professional reasons. He certainly has plenty of enemies whose opposition finds its origin in both. But it is unfair to say this was a battle between modernisers and traditionalists. This was a battle between those who take Parliament seriously and who felt Bercow was not.
The Speaker has done many good things to reinvigorate Parliament but his desire to appoint a Clerk whose lack of experience would have hampered their ability to advise him was not a good thing. It would have given him more power while potentially damaging the good working of parliament. And so the MPs Bercow himself supercharged as Speaker have turned back round to him and pointed out that this time, he’d gone too far.