Lord Speaker election: Analysing the voting
What consequences will flow from the triumph of the former Convenor of the Crossbench Peers, Lady D'Souza, in the race to become the second Lord Speaker? "Absolutely nothing will now happen," says my contact in Their Lordships' House.
First, Lady D'Souza made it absolutely clear during the election that she had no intention of trespassing on the Lords' long tradition of self-regulation. Peers are not timetabled, as they are in the Commons - they agree indicative timings for considering legislation amongst themselves and, unlike MPs, they leave no clause of legislation undebated. Any suggestion of a more powerful Lord Speaker, calling peers to speak and presiding over debates in (shudder) the style of the Commons, is seen as the first step down the slippery slope to the destruction of self-regulation.
Second, although there has been some chatter about beefing up the powers of the Lord Speaker, it is unlikely that the main parties would wish to hand even the tiny amount of extra clout that might have been available, to a non-party independent, and since the election result was quite tight the parties are not confronted with a Lord Speaker with a massive mandate.
Lady D'Souza was one of six candidates for the £101,038-a-year post. In an AV ballot, she beat the Conservative, Lord Colwyn, a former deputy speaker, by 296 votes to 285 after four rounds of transfers of votes. She received 186 first-preference votes to Lord Colwyn's 166, the Conservative Lord Goodlad's 145, Labour's Lord Desai's 78, the Liberal Democrat Lady Harris's 62 and the Liberal Democrat Lord Redesdale's seven.
That he presided over a "Leaders Group" which recommended considering an experiment in giving a scintilla of extra power to the Lord Speaker, may have done for the chances of the former Tory Chief Whip Lord Goodlad. Many tipped him as the favourite, but during the election he refused to endorse the proposals of the Group he chaired - which was a pretty difficult wicket to bat on… Another reason he may have lost might have been this round robin e-mail sent to all peers by two former Lord Chancellors:
"In these testing times for the House of Lords we urge members in voting tomorrow for our new Speaker to consider the essential requirements for the Office - experience of the working of Parliament and Government at home and abroad, understanding of our political system and a personality with authority. That is why we have proposed and seconded Lord Goodlad for the Office
James Mackay, Derry Irvine"
This was seen as canvassing - a horrible transgression in the Upper House, where elections are kept as genteel as possible and open politicking is a faux pas. And it may account for Lord Colwyn's leapfrogging him to be the leading Conservative contender.
Otherwise the voting pattern looks pretty predictable. One mystery remains. Who on earth voted for Lord Redesdale? The maverick Liberal Democrat promised he would do "as little as possible for the money." He wasn't planning to vote for himself, so the origin of the seven votes he received is a question which will tease inquiring minds for quite a while.