Monday 22 June 2009

Historic moment or damp squib?

Today is an historical moment. The election of a new Speaker by secret ballot is a huge opportunity for the Houses of Parliament to signal to the public at large that this is a time for a change, and they have taken notice of public concern about the way parliament is operating.
As we speak the table office is accepting nominations for the role. Each candidate must have 12 backers, including three from another party.
We expect to see 10 people on the first ballot. Then at 2.30pm speeches will kick off from the candidates in the chamber. The order of speakers will be decided by drawing lots. The first vote should be at 4.30pm and the result should be announced two hours later.
After each round of ballots are counted - the last person will drop out, as well as anyone else who has less than 5% of those who voted. There will be a ten minute pause before the next vote will be held. Eventually the results will be announced in alphabetically order.
All in all it could be a fascinating day for democracy and a signal of a new vibrant parliamentary era or, depending on the result, a sign that none of the parties have understood that today is not about party politics but a signal to the country and to the public that it has never been more vital to make big symbolic changes.

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