At the start of a new Parliament, just as we are getting over the General Election, MPs are thrust into …more elections.
There are many positions in the House of Commons that must be decided and most of these are elected by the MPs.
The House meets for the first time to elect the Speaker. In December this was a formality because Lindsay Hoyle, having been voted in just before the General Election, was the only candidate afterwards.
He has already made his mark as an open and accessible Speaker and does not intervene as much as his predecessor, leaving other MPs to do the talking.
But Lindsay can’t sit in the Speaker’s Chair all day, so he appointed three long-serving MPs as temporary deputies, while the next election took place: for three Deputy Speakers. To maintain balance, because Lindsay was previously a Labour MP, two deputies must be Conservative MPs. The deputies will not take part in any votes while they hold that office.
Next comes the election of chairs of select committees. These are divided between the parties, but because the Conservatives have many more MPs now, they are allocated a bigger proportion of the committees to chair.
So, in the last parliament the Transport Committee was led by a Labour MP, but its new leader will be a Conservative.
We are now in the two weeks of campaigning: select committee chairs are prestigious positions and well sought after. I remember as a new MP being bombarded with requests by senior MPs I did not know and being unsure who to vote for. Now it is easier.
For me, ideal candidates are those who have shown they know something about the subject area; and have demonstrated they are independent and will properly scrutinise the government, giving ministers a tough time, which is the job of these committees.
Some choices are easy: Yvette Cooper, Labour MP for Pontefract, and Hilary Benn from Leeds, have been superb chairs of the Home Affairs and Brexit Committees respectively and may not even be challenged.
And Damian Collins, Tory MP for Folkstone and my chairman when I was on the Culture, Media & Sport Committee, was outstanding whether leading inquiries into doping in sport, or fake news. I will support him again.
Because I am on the Opposition front bench I can’t also sit on a select committee. But these are important parts of Parliament and vital in holding the government to account. Which is why electing the right Chairperson is so important right now.