British politician Lindsay Hoyle has become the new Speaker of the House of Commons, replacing John Bercow in the role.
The veteran Labour lawmaker was elected by his fellow MPs on Monday, just two days before Parliament is set to dissolve ahead of the general election next month.
“This House will change, but it will change for the better,” Hoyle promised the chamber after his election. He said he hoped the House of Commons will be once again a “great respected house, not just in here, but across the world.”
“We’ve got to make sure that tarnish is polished away,” he added.
In his acceptance speech, Hoyle also paid tribute to his late daughter Natalie Lewis-Hoyle, who died last year, aged 28.
The Speaker oversees parliamentary debates, deciding who can speak and choosing amendments, and has historically been a low-profile, politically impartial figure. Hoyle served as the Deputy Speaker for the past nine years, and beat seven other candidates to attain his new post.
Speaking ahead of the vote, the 62-year-old politician had said that as the Speaker, he would encourage all lawmakers, not just those with long careers behind them, to speak in the chamber. “We are all equal in this House when we come to speak,” he said. He also promised to implement additional security measures, so that MPs “can feel safe.”
In keeping with tradition, Hoyle was physically dragged to the speaker’s chair by other lawmakers after the vote.
The tradition dates back to the darker ages of British politics, when the speaker acted as a messenger between Parliament and the monarch. At that time, the role carried its risks, as the speaker often paid the price for delivering a message the monarch didn’t like. Seven speakers were executed by beheading between 1394 and 1535 – which led to some reluctance among lawmakers to take up the post.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn, and the leaders of the other parties represented in Parliament all congratulated the newly-minted Speaker.
Johnson said Hoyle will bring his “signature kindness” to parliamentary proceedings, while Corbyn praised him for his track record as the Deputy Speaker.
Hoyle’s predecessor John Bercow stepped down at the end of October, after a decade in the role. Bercow had taken an active role as Speaker, which resulted in bitter division between those who saw him as an ally to backbench MPs, and others who criticized him for allowing the political opposition to take control of business in the House of Commons.
The logjam over Brexit also made Bercow into something of a celebrity, with the Speaker often exerting Parliament’s authority with inimitable cries of “orderrrrrrrr!”