Next Wednesday, peers vote to elect a new Lord Speaker in succession to Baromess Hayman, who is not seeking re-election having completed her five-year term of office. (She was eligible to seek re-election for a second and final term.) I recorded an interview earlier today for BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour on the competition to replace her. There are six candidates: Lord Colwyn (Con), Lord Desai (Lab), Baroness D’Souza (cross-bench), Lord Goodlad (Con), Baroness Harris of Richmond (Lib Dem), and Lord Redesdale (Lib Dem). Following hustings organised by the Hansard Society, it is anyone’s guess as to who will win. We employ the dreaded Alternative Vote (AV). I doubt if any candidate will get 50%+1 in the first round, so it will then depend on redistributed votes from candidates as they are eliminated. Though it is unclear who will come first, I am reasonably sure Lord Redesdale will come bottom: his platform is to do as little as possible for the money.
One of the key points I made in the interview is that the office is a distinct one. We are not looking for anyone who is good at keeping order or deciding business or speakers in the chamber. We are a self-regulating chamber, so the presiding officer has no powers while sitting on the Woolsack. The power rests with members collectively (albeit exercised on their behalf by the Leader or the duty whip). What we are looking for is someone who is a good ambassador, who can be the face of the House of Lords to the rest of the world. Baroness Hayman did an outstanding job in developing an outreach problem – not least the ‘Peers in Schools’ initiative – and we are keen to have someone who will be able to follow in her footsteps.
Voting is on 13 July, but the result is not announced until the following Monday, 18 July. The new Lord Speaker will take up office on 1 September.