Do these people not have researchers?
1. “Tradition says the speakership alternates between parties”
No, it doesn’t.
“Tradition”, in so far as it says anything at all, says that the party in power supplies the speaker. For the last hundred and fifty years or so, this “tradition” has been breached only once – by the election of Betty Boothroyd*. Yes, from the sixties onwars, the speakership rotated, but that was because of a remarkable co-incidence between the deaths or retirements of speakers and changes of Government. If you want to quote tradition, a better version would be “Traditionally an MP from the governing party is chosen, except when significant numbers of them decide to vote for someone else“.
2. Leading Government figures are rarely chosen.
George Thomas (1976–83) was a cabinet minister, Selwyn Lloyd (1971-76) was Chancellor and Foreign Secretary. Hylton- Foster (1959-65) was actually serving as Solicitor General when he was elected. William Morrison (1951-59) was a minister for 14 years.
When you consider Bernard Weatherill was a whip from ’67 through to 1979, it’s only the Horace King and the last two speakers in the post war period who haven’t served as a Front-bencher at a reasonably senior level.
Oh, and a special one for the wonderful Tom Harris – who in discussing Speaker Martin said he “couldn’t find a single Tory MP who voted for him in the final division.” Under the old rules, Martin’s name was included as part of the main motion, then a series of amendments were put with other people’s names proposed instead of his. All of those amendments were defeated. Four Tory MPs voted against the amendment proposing Sir George Young, and eight voted against the amendment proposing Sir Alan Haselhurst. No Tory MP voted against Michael Lord.
Finally the main motion, with Martin’s name, was proposed and passed, with several (though not a huge number) of Tory MPs voting for him . I saw Sayeed, Temple-Morris, Cash, Leigh, Haselhurst and a gew others on a quick scan.
Anyway, I don’t know whether I am depressed that I’m sad enough to know this stuff, even though the Speakership is not important – or annoyed that the people whose job it is to tell the public about it don’t seem to know the facts. (Tom excluded, as he has a more important job)
* I suppose you could also make a case for the election of John Whitley in 1921, a coalition Liberal elected in a parliament dominated by Coalition Tories, but they were in coalition together, so it was still that government benches.