Speaker John Bercow wants to switch to a new seat with only MPs as his ‘constituents’ so he can avoid a humiliating defeat by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage at the nextGeneral Election.
It would mean abandoning his Buckingham seat for the newly created one called St Stephen’s – the name of the old House of Commons chapel – where, effectively, it would be impossible to challenge him.
He put forward the idea amid speculation that he may struggle to defeat Mr Farage, who stepped down as UKIP leader to take on Mr Bercow in defiance of the custom where the Commons Speaker is not challenged by the main parties.
If the tradition ended, said Mr Bercow, it could be hard for any Speaker to survive for more than one parliamentary term.
Mr Bercow suggested giving the Speaker ‘a separate constituency, known as St Stephen’s, representing a small area around Westminster’.
The Speaker’s original constituency would hold a normal election and choose a new MP, he explained.
‘The Commons can always decide to do that if it wants,’ he told Total Politics magazine. If MPs supported such an idea, he would not oppose it. Ordinary members of the public would not be allowed to be ‘constituents’ of the Speaker’s St Stephen’s seat.
Any Election challenge would have to be made on an individual – not a party – basis, making it harder to unseat the Speaker.
Mr Bercow said: ‘It is both possible and necessary for the Speaker to continue to be a highly active constituency MP.
I suspect I won’t face major party competition – but I will face opponents.’
I'm not sure there would be enough time to get this through Parliament before the next election, and Labour will be unlikely to support a measure that gets the Tories off an uncomfortable hook.
That said this will be a big morale boost for Farage, it certainly gives him more ammunition to use during his campaign.