I’VE been really flattered by the interest in my announcement to stand for Speaker of the Commons. I only hope it doesn’t come as a crushing blow to Sunday National readers that Ladbrokes has given me the rather cruel odds of 50/1.

Nonetheless, even long shots can come in, so I have crafted a manifesto with several key reforms to bring Westminster into the 21st century. Mainly, they are designed to demonstrate the farcical and absurd way that Westminster operates and to contrast that with how things are done at Holyrood.

I have no idea when a contest will be called, but the Westminster expectation is that it is imminent. That means that SNP MPs participate in choosing the next Speaker and that choice should not be restricted to Tory or Labour candidates.

I will offer an entirely different option to fundamentally question the ways of Westminster.

It should come as no surprise that number one of my top 10 proposals is to introduce electronic voting. I have probably spent several weeks of my life just voting in the House of Commons and wasting time in cramped, packed and, at times, dangerous division lobbies. The way we vote is more reminiscent of a medieval assembly. Worse than that, because time taken up with this nonsense, several key decisions may not be considered.

The other issue that I know irks many people is that SNP MPs contribute at the end of debates with speaking time curtailed.

This is because MPs are called to speak based on seniority and a crude arithmetical assessment of party strength. With nearly all SNP MPs being relatively new and from a group of 35 out of 650, we inevitably lose out. What I propose is to overhaul how MPs are selected to speak based on equality. I would end “seniority” and have members with a long-standing interest in the debate – regardless of party – called early with a ballot system designed to then select the rest of the speakers on an equitable basis. I would also put in place a list of when members would be expected to speak prior to the start of a debate and have this made available to the House.


And I want to address the many nonsensical ways in which the House conducts itself during debates. I remember the response when SNP MPs were rebuked simply for clapping. Legislatures round the world seem to manage perfectly well by allowing this and in the absence of clapping, strange and exotic sounds have emerged in the Commons.

We must also address how we refer to each other. I know that many would take issue with the prefix of “Honourable” to the Gentleman/Lady or Friend that we currently use.

We all have names and if they are good enough for us in all other day to day discourse they should be good enough for the chamber of the House of Commons. There is also the absurd notion that the Speaker should dictate how MPs dress in the chamber. As Speaker, I would end these pointless conventions.

I would also want to democratise the management of the Commons by creating an “Executive of the House” to include staff members and the wider Parliamentary community.

I have also suggested extending proxy voting to those with illness or caring responsibilities and I have proposed taking the debates we have in Westminster Hall around the UK.

Lastly, I would seek to address our historic commitment to reform the House of Lords because it is an undemocratic anachronism unreflective of our communities.

I would lead a cross-party convention of Parliament involving the devolved legislatures to progress our democracy and make both the “Houses” of Parliament more accountable and representative.

Is my programme likely to secure widespread Parliamentary support? Is my tongue firmly in cheek as I propose this almost revolutionary agenda?

I will leave that for you to decide. Scotland will be leaving Westminster soon so I will be in a hurry to conclude this agenda. I would like to maybe think that this could be our parting gift – from us to them.


    1. A'bh NicCoinnich

      What an excellent manifesto! I sincerely hope that you have the opportunity to bring it into being. High time that Westminster was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century.

      1. Jim Robin

        21st century? That’s a bit of a tall order! 😉 However if anyone might be able to effect that, I can think of many reasons that it be Mr Wishart. He has proved himself time and time again in his ability for the post. He is articulate and possesses a good combination of wealth of overall knowledge and knowledge of parliamentary procedure.

      2. JSM

        There’s no way that he’ll get voted in as Speaker. Yes, the manifesto sounds excellent but as an SNP MP he should be concentrating on getting Scotland her independence and not getting even comfier in Westminster.

  1. Graham Fleming

    It all makes reasonable sense Peter, so will never happen. You sat up there with a keyboard accompanying the debate old time silent movie cinema style would be cool.

  2. Peter A Bell

    Pete Wishart seems intent on testing to its limit my resolve to vote SNP for the sake of the independence cause. As Speaker, he would be lost to the SNP group at Westminster. Whether or not he has any chance of getting this job at the heart of the British establishment, he is effectively declaring his desire to withdraw from the fight for independence in favour of trying to make the British parliament work a wee bit better. If this is evidence of his priorities, what use is he to me or anyone else who considers ending the Union a matter of the utmost importance and urgency?

    We need politicians who are totally dedicated to saving Scotland from the scourge of British Nationalism. I’m sure as hell not seeing that kind of commitment from somebody who appears to have totally forgotten the opening paragraphs of the SNP’s constitution.

  3. Jim Robin

    I do not agree with Mr Bell’s thoughts on this at all. I think that with you at the helm, SNP’s MPs might not be shouted down quite so much and I do not think that you would stand for the rudeness displayed to some SNP MPs, like for example the rudeness displayed to Mr Blackford by Soames. My very best wishes for success in your application. Good on you!!

      1. Jim Robin

        Well, I hope that I am right – however I do take your point. It’s kind of negative to “invite” or allow hostility towards the SNP benches, but I can see how such hostility could be to its advantage in that it disgraces those who perpetrate it. I wonder then if this could be a win / win situation? 😉

  4. Pete Roberts

    The speakers job doesn’t sound to me like a comfortable spot for an SNP MP

    1. Jim Robin

      I doubt that it would be “comfortable” for anyone! I am not aligned in the slightest with the politics of Mr Bercow, however I do have a certain admiration for the way that he has handled the whole Brexit saga (I use the word saga for the want of a better word). He’s a hard act to follow but I would love to once again hear a Scots accent presiding over the house. (I say this in full knowledge and respect for Michael Martin). Without meaning any disrespect to Mr Martin, I do believe that Mr Wishart is more knowledgeable and more articulate and could do a better job as the speaker.

  5. Pip Squires

    I’m not SNP Pete, but I am interested in what you have to say and I think your ideas for reform of our archaic and pompous House of Commons are all fantastic and well needed. Good luck!!

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