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Commons Speaker Addresses Local Students

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Sixth Form students from across the borough enjoyed a very special morning with Sir Lindsay Hoyle, The Speaker of the House of Commons, at Bolton School. 

Mr Britton, Head of Foundation, welcomed Sir Lindsay, who opened his address with an overview of his political career. He stressed how getting young people involved in politics had always been a priority for him, and, indeed, how this had been a part of his own experience: he had come from a political family, and became the youngest councillor to serve Chorley at the age of twenty-two. After experiencing local politics, he told how he was encouraged to stand for the Labour Party and spoke about his work as a ‘champion of overseas territories’, even going against the government when necessary. 

Sir Lindsay explained how he became a Deputy Speaker and all about his elected position as Chair of Ways and Means, explaining what the role entails and how he fulfils his duties. He also talked about some of the challenges he has faced in the position during what has been a frenetic time in politics, from helping to beef up Parliament’s cyber security, to dealing with the aftermath of the death of Jo Cox and the London Bridge terror attack. 

Sir Lindsay then went into more detail about his election as the Speaker of the House of Commons, what the role means and how he has brought his own style to the post. He told how, when he arrived, the top three posts in the Speaker’s office were all held by men: it involved some difficult conversations, but he has since changed that to make it a more diverse office. Having good staff, he said, is key to achieving effectiveness, and he talked about some of the people he works with day to day as well as shedding light on some of the lesser-known aspects of his job: he reminded everyone that ‘sitting in the chair’ is only three hours a day, and this is only a small fraction of his role! As the ‘Chairman’ of the House of Commons, he is also responsible for salary negotiations, making decisions about repairs to the building and a host of other duties and responsibilities. Reflecting on some of the key moments from his time in the House of Commons, he recalled how the mood of the chamber changed completely when word came through that the Queen was ‘very ill’. 

In closing, Sir Lindsay said that Parliament had undoubtedly changed over the years. However, he emphasised, there is a need to bring back respect, not just tolerance. He said that people should believe in democracy and that the ballot box should be the answer. Overall, he said he felt ‘lucky’ to have such a ‘wonderful job’ and that the House can be the worst or the best and ‘when it’s the best there’s no better place to be’. 

Sir Lindsay then opened the floor to questions, the first of which was: is it difficult to remain neutral? He replied that being neutral is part of the rules, and he couldn’t have taken the job if he wasn’t prepared to follow them. He admitted that it is sometimes difficult, but he cannot show favouritism. When asked whether it is difficult to represent his constituency as Speaker, he said that he still lives in Chorley and ensures that he makes time to be there and to talk to constituents. He also said that he has a unique position, in that he may not be able to speak in the chamber, but he can summon the Prime Minister, and others, and, in private, use his position effectively on behalf of his constituents. 

He talked about Prime Minister’s Questions as being ‘pure theatre’, a good place to raise issues but not a place for effective scrutiny or to get an answer. He offered his thoughts on Scottish independence, and spoke on the necessity of a scrutinising body, whether that be the Lords or some other entity. He also shared some anecdotes about the Speakers’ Conference, which he hosted in Chorley at the request of Nancy Pelosi! He talked about the psychological impact of the job on MPs, including the abuse and intimidation they can face, and the work he has done to combat this and encourage positive health and wellbeing. 

In light of Liz Truss’s resignation in the days before his visit, several questions were posed about the change in Prime Minister and the possibility of a General Election. Sir Lindsay stressed that it is important for his job to be able to build a relationship with the Prime Minister, whoever they may be, and that the country needs stability most of all. He reminded everyone that the UK does not have a presidential system, and the public selects a political party, not a person. 

Finally, Sir Lindsay gave his advice to those looking to pursue a career in politics: get involved in local, grassroots politics and join a party. He said that if you want to be at the cutting edge, look at becoming an MP, but also reminded the audience that civil servants are often involved in politics at the highest levels without being political. 

Mr Britton thanked Sir Lindsay for his address and his thoughtful answers to the questions posed by students. He also thanked Mr Winrow of the Bolton School Girls’ Division History and Politics Department for arranging the event. 

'Sir Lindsay’s talk was a wonderful opportunity for Bolton School students studying Politics at A Level, as well as younger Girls’ Division pupils involved in Model United Nations (MUN), to hear from a senior political figure about working in Government. I was delighted to extend an invite to local schools and colleges too. All in all, it has been a great morning', said Mr Winrow.

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