Shailesh Vara needs no introduction in UK politics, neither among Brexiteers who see him as one of the most staunch champions of their cause, nor immigrants who view him as an example of what the country has to offer regardless of one's religious, social, or ethnic identity. After resigning from the Theresa May cabinet because of his differences with her over Brexit, the Member of Parliament for North West Cambridgeshire has thrown his hat for one of the most prestigious roles in British politics: The Speaker of the House of Commons. Republic TV's reporter Anilesh spoke to him.
Anilesh: Mr Vara, you have very strong views against the current speaker Mr John Bercow who will stand down on October 31. Speakers across the globe are accused of partiality in many countries. We can debate the nature and merit of these accusations. However, first let us understand your views on John Bercow.
Shailesh Vara: The Speaker of the House of Commons is supposed to be completely impartial but sadly that impartiality has been breached by the present Speaker. His behaviour has tarnished the role of Speaker. He has ignored the advice of his advisers when it suited him and either followed or ignored long-standing precedents and conventions when again it suited his particular agenda.
Anilesh: But is the Speaker not allowed to reach his own conclusions? You are accusing him of selectivity. How would you ensure that you listen and act on what the advisers have to say?
Shailesh Vara: I would ensure that the Speaker in future acts completely impartially and that means bringing about clarity as to what the Speaker can and cannot do in certain circumstances. This not only ensures impartiality but it also protects the Speaker from charges of not being impartial. The Speaker must not only be impartial but be seen to be impartial.
Anilesh: Mr Bercow has been accused of bullying - a charge which he has always denied. With regards to debates, what would you change and why do you think you deserve that chair?
Shailesh Vara: The tone of debate needs to change. The Speaker regularly insults and demeans fellow MPs and acts as a verbal playground bully. He should certainly be firm and exercise authority but that can be done by being courteous and polite. I believe I have the necessary experience for the role. I have been an MP for nearly 15 years. I have been a backbencher, a Government Minister as well as a Shadow Minister in Opposition and also served on important House Committees.
Anilesh: There are a number of challengers who claim to be the most deserving candidate for the role. Why do you think that the fellow members of Parliament should vote for you and not the others from your own party?
Shailesh Vara: There have so far been 157 Speakers in the past 650 years. If I became the next Speaker, I would be the first non-white holder of this Great Office of State. I am an immigrant to the UK. My parents migrated to Uganda from India and I came here at the age of 4. From Uganda, unable to speak a word of English to becoming Speaker would send a powerful message to every child in the UK, black, white, brown, boy or girl, that no matter what their background, they too can attain one of the highest offices in the land.
Currently, there are nine candidates in the battle who will fight to get the maximum votes. For the selection of the speaker, each MP is given a list of candidates to vote from. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the votes then the House is informed about it and the candidate is asked whether they will take the chair. In case no candidate gets 50%, an elimination process starts with those receiving fewest votes. The candidates with less than five per cent votes get eliminated and the process continues till the House gets one candidate with more than half of the votes.