UK lawmakers electing new speaker to replace John Bercow

Bercow retired last week after a decade chairing the UK's lower legislative chamber.

    John Bercow departed the House of Commons chamber for the final time as speaker last week [UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Reuters]
    John Bercow departed the House of Commons chamber for the final time as speaker last week [UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Reuters]

    British legislators are electing a new House of Commons speaker to replace the influential yet controversial John Bercow.

    Bercow retired last week after a decade as speaker that saw him become a central player in Britain's Brexit drama.

    Like Bercow, the new speaker will run the daily business of the Commons, keeping legislators in line with robust cries of "Order!"

    Some politicians want to see a more cautious approach than that taken by Bercow, who prided himself on making the government answer to Parliament. The speaker is supposed to be an impartial arbiter of Parliament's rules, but critics accused Bercow of favouring anti-Brexit politicians at the expense of supporters of leaving the European Union.

    There are eight contenders to succeed him, including Bercow's three deputies - Lindsay Hoyle, Rosie Winterton and Eleanor Laing - and long-serving Labour legislator Harriet Harman.

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    The candidates will each get five minutes to address legislators before Monday's secret-ballot vote. There will be rounds of voting with the lowest-placed contender dropping out each time, until one candidate secures majority support.

    The choice of a new speaker comes as Britain gears up for a December 12 early election in which all 650 seats in the House of Commons are up for grabs. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservatives are hoping to win a majority that could unblock Britain's political deadlock and let Johnson fulfil his pledge to take Britain out of the European Union.

    The left-of-centre Labour Party is trying to shift the campaign's focus from Brexit to domestic political issues such as schools, healthcare and Britain's social inequities.

    The centrist Liberal Democrats, who want to cancel Brexit, and the single-issue Brexit Party are battling for voters with strong views on whether the UK should quit the 28-nation EU or not.

    SOURCE: AP news agency