Chorley’s Lindsay Hoyle on his role as Speaker of the House of Commons
PUBLISHED: 09:09 21 July 2020
Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle is leading Parliament through difficult times and uncharted territory
Few people can ever have had a more tumultuous start to a new job. Within weeks of becoming the Speaker of the House of Commons, Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle was overseeing a General Election, the UK’s departure from the EU and the lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
It hasn’t affected his enjoyment of the job, though. In spite of the strange circumstances, he is clearly revelling in the role.
After ten years as the deputy speaker, he became the 158th Speaker of the House of Commons last November, taking over from John Bercow – a divisive character in the House, by anyone’s account – and has set about imposing his own brand of Lancastrian calm and wit on the often fractious proceedings.
‘I’m very lucky, I’ve got a fantastic job,’ he says. ‘There’s great history before me and we all have a different style to bring to the job. I think the House knows they’ve got a Lancastrian in the chair.
‘There is lot to the job but I’m still as excited as when I got the job. It is hard work and the days are long but I do enjoy it.
‘I’ve had one of the longest apprenticeships in history but I didn’t think the job was going to be like this. We had a General Election almost as soon as I took to the chair and then we’ve had to turn 750 years of history and tradition on its head within 48 hours because of the Coronavirus.
‘I have a great team around me and we have managed what has need to be managed but these are very strange times. The first thing I wanted to do was to ensure that the government was not just being held to account by journalists so we had to come with an effective system as quickly as possible.
‘The hybrid model we have used – with some MPs in the chamber and others contributing via screens from home – has worked pretty well. We have been able to deal with legislation but only having 50 people in the chamber, instead of the 450 we’re used to, means we miss that electric atmosphere.
‘I am looking forward to the House getting back to normal and getting back to the business of normality. We need to make sure we take forward any benefits that may have come from this situation, too.’
Lindsay grew up in a politically charged family. His father, Doug, was MP for the old Clitheroe constituency and in Warrington, and he took the young Lindsay with him to party conferences – his first at the tender age of 12 months.
Those early experiences inspired him and although he had believed as a child that you had to be a lot older to be a politician, aged 22 he became Chorley’s youngest borough councillor, and went on to become deputy leader and mayor. In 1997 he was encouraged to take his political career onto the national stage and won the Chorley seat in Labour’s landslide victory. He arrived at the House of Commons as his father moved on to the Lords.
Being Speaker of the House of Commons means much more than shouting ‘order, order’ and keeping the politicians in check. Lindsay is still MP for Chorley and leads a number of committees and sits on others and has a particular interest in the security of Parliament – an issue all the more relevant since the death of MP Jo Cox, the increase in attacks on politicians and the terrorist threat.
He was in the chair on March 22nd 2017 when a man drove a car at high speed across Westminster Bridge, hitting pedestrians before running into the grounds of the Palace of Westminster and stabbing a police officer.
‘Our village bobby who was defending democracy was killed doing his job,’ says Lindsay. ‘That day had a massive impact on MPs and staff. It was an attack by someone who wanted to stop democracy. It’s tough, but we must never give in to that.’
Lindsay has known tough times in his personal life, too. In his first speech after being made Speaker, Lindsay lamented the fact that his daughter Natalie could not be there.
She was found dead in the bedroom of her home in Essex in December 2017. An inquest heard she had been involved in a “toxic” relationship in the time leading to her apparent suicide.
‘There’s never a day goes by when I don’t think of Natalie,’ Lindsay said. ‘We are still all devastated. It had a big impact on the whole family. It doesn’t get any easier, you just have to live with it.
‘She was wonderful, a larger than life person who lit up the room. She was the apple of her mum’s eye and she was everything to her niece and nephew. You ask yourself why it has happened but you can’t explain it.
‘Maybe what happened will bring about a better understanding of what people can go through in relationships.’
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Here to chair
Lindsay travels to London from his Chorley home on Sundays and returns on Thursdays and he says: ‘I love going home and enjoying the beautiful scenery. I need my Lancashire fix. Rivington is lovely, Astley Hall and Astley Park are great – it’s just a great place to be. And Chorley is changing, Chorley is on the move.
‘All MPs are passionate about their constituency, but I am especially passionate because I was born and brought up in the constituency – I do my shopping on the market, I have been treated at Chorley Hospital. It really matters to me and the people really matter to me.’