Labour’s Harriet Harman to run for Commons Speaker

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Media captionHarriet Harman told Today she will run to become the next Commons Speaker

Harriet Harman has confirmed she will run to become the next Commons Speaker.

The Labour MP and Mother of the House – the longest continuously-serving female MP – made the announcement after the current Speaker, John Bercow, said he would stand down by 31 October.

Ms Harman told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was the Speaker’s job “to ensure Parliament can have its say”.

Other MPs intending to stand include Tory Sir Edward Leigh and the SNP’s Pete Wishart.

Ms Harman – who is known for her campaigning on women’s rights – said the next Speaker must be “scrupulously neutral” on debates, and praised Mr Bercow.

She told Today: “This is a Parliament in very difficult times. We have got very divided times in the country and Parliament itself is divided.

“I think what Parliament has to do, and the Speaker has to do, is to ensure that Parliament can have its say… and that is what John Bercow has sought to do.”

Asked if she would be able to remain neutral in the chair, Ms Harman said: “Once you offer yourself for election as Speaker, you are making a promise you will set [your party] aside and be neutral, so whoever [is Speaker] will have to go through that transition.

“I would be a champion for Parliament.

“I think the relationship between Parliament and public is very difficult at the moment, and I think a really confident, positive voice speaking about the importance of Parliament with the public is necessary at this time.”

Who is Harriet Harman?

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Image caption Harriet Harman on the campaign trail in 1982 with then shadow home secretary Roy Hattersley

Harriet Harman became the MP for Peckham (later Camberwell and Peckham) during a by-election in 1982 and has remained in her seat ever since.

She went to the exclusive St Paul’s Girls’ School in London and read politics at York University, before training as a solicitor.

She was rapidly promoted during Labour’s years in opposition in the 1980s and 1990s, before becoming Tony Blair’s secretary of state for social security and minister for women.

Despite being sacked over welfare reform, she returned to government in 2001 as solicitor general, then secretary of state at the department for constitutional affairs, and, under Gordon Brown, became deputy leader.

She has a reputation as a steely feminist, once joking she was unlikely to become prime minister as there was not enough space at airports for the men who would try to leave the country.

She is married to fellow Labour MP Jack Dromey and has three children.

The news comes after Mr Bercow announced he would be standing down as Speaker at the next general election, or at the end of business on 31 October (Brexit deadline day) – whichever comes first.

In an emotional speech to the Commons, Mr Bercow said his 10-year “tenure” was nearing its end and it had been the “greatest honour and privilege” to serve.

He has faced fierce criticism from Brexiteers, who have questioned his impartiality on the issue of Europe and claim he has facilitated efforts by MPs opposed to a no-deal exit to take control of Commons business.

He has also been criticised for not doing more to tackle allegations of bullying and harassment in the House of Commons – facing accusations himself about mistreating several members of his own staff, which he denies.

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Media captionIn full: Speaker Bercow announces resignation

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