Pete Wishart – 2019 Tribute to the Speaker of the House of Commons

Below is the text of the speech made by Pete Wishart, the SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire, in the House of Commons on 31 October 2019.

Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I say that for the last time. I was just saying to the SNP Chief Whip, given that questions were allowed to go on for 40 minutes longer, Bercow must go.

I was, of course, one of your nominees 10 years ago. I would therefore like to congratulate myself on my solid and sound judgment on that occasion. I always knew that you would make an excellent Speaker. Even that awful impersonation you did of Peter Tapsell when you were trying to be elected did not dissuade me of that notion. But I did not know that you would be such a transformative Speaker. The way in which we do business in this Chamber is now forever changed because of your speakership. You have pioneered and transformed. The speakership of this House is now no longer just about overseeing the business in the Chamber, and the way in which we debate and interact with each other. It is about asserting the rights of Parliament and championing parliamentary democracy. And you have been singularly brave in the way you have challenged various Governments who believed that it was their gift always to get their way. We will never go back to those days now, because of the way in which you have challenged that assumption.

I will never forget sitting with you in that curry house in Buckingham, when MP4 did a gig for you in your constituency. That curry house stayed open because Mr Speaker was coming with some strange guests from a rock band, and the vindaloo you ordered that night had to be specially prepared. We could not get you to come up on stage with us that evening, but now you have a bit more time. Given the Prime Minister’s Sinatra reference yesterday, maybe you could give us a rendition of “My Way”; we would happily supply the backing for that occasion.

The culture of this House has been totally and radically transformed. You have ensured that the Back Benchers are now fully accommodated. I have been here long enough to remember the days when urgent questions and statements were cut off after half an hour or 40 minutes, and it would always be the Back Benchers and Members of the smaller parties who would lose out on an opportunity to say something and give their point of view on the issue of the day. That no longer happens. Everybody is now accommodated. I hope that that transformation that you have made will continue to be adopted as we go forward. We all now get an opportunity to give our point of view in this House, and it is important that that remains the case. For that, we thank you.

We on these Benches will miss you, and you will forever be a friend of Scotland and of the Scottish National party. On behalf of our party, I wish you and your family—Sally, Freddie, Jemima and Oliver—all the very best for the future. I wish your staff, Peter, Ian and Jim, all the best as well. I hope that you enjoy the next stage of what has already been a fascinating and unique journey. You are a one-off, sir, and we will miss you.