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Should the Lib Dems stand against Bercow?

Guy Aitchison
22 September 2009

 Interesting idea of the day from the Lib Dem conference: stand a candidate against John Bercow to campaign on a platform of democratic reform. The idea was expressed during an off-the-record discussion on how the LDs can make a breakthrough on constitutional reform and bring the issues to a wider public. The constitutional "convention" of course is that parties don't stand against the Speaker. But when you're the third party fighting a rotten system that's stacked against you it's got to be worth a shot, hasn't it? Bercow is a semi-corrupt establishment figure - a "flipper" who won't deliver the reform Parliament needs. So why not take him on?

Nigel Farrage, of course, has already broken with convention by declaring his candidacy. Perhaps the LDs should stand against Bercow and Farrage on a broad democratic agenda that includes full engagement by Britain in Europe....but then perhaps that would split the anti-Farrage vote and let UKIP in.

I've been discussing the proposal with James Graham on Twitter who thinks it would probably be a big waste of money and energy which would almost certainly have no impact on the public debate. This is pretty much the same objection James made to David Marquand's proposal that the LDs open up selection of their Lords to a national vote. I can see where he's coming from. Resources are limited and things are going to be tight for the LDs come the general election just to hold onto the seats they already have. 

So, I'm not saying this is a strategy the LDs should necessarily adopt, but like Anthony and David, I'm more and more convinved it's the kind of risk they need to be take if they want to make a breakthrough. Nick Clegg stole a lead on the other party leaders when he broke with convention and called on Speaker Martin to go. David Davis helped shifted the pubic's views on civil liberties when he resigned and fought a by-election on the issue of 42 days. His call for public debate was ultimately taken up by the Convention on Modern Liberty, which helped release exactly the kind of wider public energy many in the LDs hope to connect to.

So what do people think? Should the LDs stand against Bercow?

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