Harriet Harman vows to continue Speaker bid despite local party snub
Senior Labour MP Harriet Harman has vowed to continue her bid to become the next Commons Speaker, despite her local party’s call for her to abandon the ambition.
Her Camberwell and Peckham constituency party voted on Thursday night to express its “disquiet” at her running for the coveted post.
Members also hinted that she could face a Labour candidate at the next general election if she becomes Speaker, flouting the convention of the main parties not standing against the occupant of the chair.
But Ms Harman tweeted “I will not back down”, as she pledged her “unshakeable” commitment to her constituents.
She added: “A confident & respected House of Commons representing every constituency in this country & holding govt to account is vital to our parliamentary democracy.
“The Speaker is at the heart of this – that’s why I going for it.”
The motion was moved by Nick Wrack, a barrister who was once blocked from joining Labour after standing against Ms Harman for the Trade Unionists and Socialists party in 2015.
The vote was initially tied at 21 to 21, but a recount passed the motion by 26 to 22.
It noted that Ms Harman had decided to stand for the post without consulting key local party figures and acknowledged that the convention is for parties not to field a candidate against the Speaker.
It also raised the controversial decision by some Tories to threaten to stand against current Speaker John Bercow in his Buckingham seat if he was to seek re-election.
Of the motion, Camberwell and Peckham Labour Party secretary Dave Lewis said: “It was expressing disquiet about Harriet’s decision to stand for the Speaker role and asking her to reconsider.”
The concerns, Mr Lewis said, were that the MP would have to resign from Labour in order to be an impartial figure in the House of Commons.
“As a party we lose a political voice in the House of Commons and as an electorate people of Camberwell and Peckham lose a voice in the House of Commons. That’s the feeling,” he said.
Mr Lewis explained the recount disparity as being down to three tellers who “couldn’t agree on the numbers”, which he agreed was hard to explain with the low number of voters.
The secretary also said that despite the vote, it would be unlikely they would stand a candidate against Ms Harman, a former deputy Labour leader.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” he said. “It would have to be signed off by the national party and I can’t see them signing that off.”
Dame Margaret Hodge expressed her backing for Ms Harman, who she praised as a “driving force for equality within Labour”.
“These pointless & divisive tactics orchestrated by the usual suspects have simply chosen to ignore that. To their shame,” the Labour former minister tweeted.
Camberwell and Peckham is considered one of the safest Labour seats in the country, and Mr Wrack’s bid to oust Ms Harman in the 2015 vote saw him trail with 292 votes to her 32,614.
She is expected to take part in the Speaker’s election on November 4, after Mr Bercow announced he will take the chair for the final time on October 31 – the current Brexit deadline.