Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

MPs line up for Deputy Speaker post

Simon Burns has resigned as Transport Minister to run for the vacant Deputy Speaker position

Simon Burns has resigned as Transport Minister to run for the vacant Deputy Speaker position, where his competition will include one-time reality TV contestant Nadine Dorries.

The Conservative MPs are two of Parliament's most colourful characters and both have confirmed they are bidding to replace Nigel Evans, who resigned a s one of Speaker John Bercow's deputies after he was charged with offences last month.

Evans, the 55-year-old MP for Ribble Valley, is accused of two counts of indecent assault, five of sexual assault and one of rape. The charges date from 2002 to earlier this year.

Epping Forest MP Eleanor Laing also told the Evening Standard she will stand in the election but added she was "certainly not the Number 10 candidate".

Chelmsford MP Mr Burns has clashed with Speaker Mr Bercow on more than one occasion in the House of Commons.

In June 2010, Mr Burns - then a health minister - apologised after calling the Speaker a "stupid, sanctimonious dwarf".

Mr Burns made the remarks, along with hand gestures, while seated on the front bench after Mr Bercow rebuked him for failing to face the despatch box when he answered backbenchers' questions.

In July this year, Mr Bercow ordered Mr Burns to stop suggesting that MPs were "chuntering" in the Commons.

The Speaker said it might have appeared "inappropriate" that Mr Burns was making such suggestions given that he was someone who regularly "shouts and hollers and chunters".

Tory backbencher Ms Dorries believes her record as an independent-minded MP will boost her chances of becoming Deputy Speaker.

Ms Dorries had the Conservative whip restored earlier this year after apologising for taking part without permission in the ITV game show I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!

The former nurse, a frequent critic of Prime Minister David Cameron, said she appeared on the reality TV programme in a bid to raise awareness of political issues.

The process for the election of a replacement for Mr Evans is expected to be announced when MPs return to the Commons next week.

Mr Burns wrote to Mr Cameron to confirm his resignation today.

He told the PM : "Following our recent conversation, I would like to confirm that I wish to resign from the Government so that I can stand in the forthcoming election for the vacancy to the post of Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.

"It has been a privilege to serve in your administration for the past three-and-a-half years and I will be forever grateful to you for giving me that opportunity in both the Departments of Health and Transport.

"You can rest assured that I will continue to support your leadership of both the Conservative Party and the Government."

Mr Cameron told Mr Burns he understood the decision would not have been easy and " one you will have given a huge amount of thought to".

The PM continued: "After serving the Government so ably for over three years, you will certainly be missed, but I completely understand and respect your decision.

"You have been such a loyal, dedicated and committed colleague over the past three years of Government ... and before that in Opposition where you served as the senior Opposition whip.

"You have brought so much to our team drawing on your considerable parliamentary and political experience. It has been a pleasure to work with you throughout."

Tory backbencher Ms Dorries' strained relationship with the Tory leadership - she once described Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne as "two posh boys who don't know the price of milk" - might help sway Labour MPs to support her, but her outspoken views on issues including abortion could prevent her attracting widespread support from the Opposition.

She said : "I have got a proven track record of achievement in Parliament. As Deputy Speaker I would have to be politically impartial ... I think given my own personal vote record and position on various issues I have shown I am impartial.

"I'm probably one of the most independently-minded MPs."

Northampton South Tory MP Brian Binley, a friend of Mr Evans and a strident critic of the party leadership, indicated that he too was likely to enter the contest.

"I am seriously consdering it on the basis of the sizeable amount of support that has been expressed to me," he said.

"That is very flattering but also means that my candidacy won't be totally futile.

"I am standing on a basis of fairness, on the basis of fitting in to the Speaker's team."

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