Guide: Who is the Speaker of the House of Commons?

Last updated at 05:30
John Bercow, Speaker of the House of CommonsPA
The current Speaker, John Bercow

The Speaker of the House of Commons is one of the biggest jobs in British politics.

But what does the Speaker do? Read our guide to the role, how the Speaker is chosen, and the history of the job.

What is the Speaker's job?

The Speaker of the House of Commons chairs debates between Members of Parliament (MPs). They keep order and call up MPs to speak.

The Speaker also represents the House of Commons to the Queen, the House of Lords and other authorities.

They have three deputies.

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The BBC's Chris Mason explains the role of the Speaker

How is the Speaker chosen?

The role of the Speaker goes to an MP who is decided in a secret vote of their fellow MPs.

They are elected on the first day a new parliament comes together, or after a Speaker has resigned.

Impartial role

The Speaker must remain impartial at all times - that means they cannot take sides.

When elected, they must resign from their political party and stay separate from political issues - even after they retire.

What powers does the Speaker have?

The Speaker has a powerful role in the House of Commons.

House of CommonsPARBUL
Inside the House of Commons

They can ask an MP to withdraw remarks if they think it's inappropriate, and tell MPs to be quiet so opinions can be heard.

They can also suspend MPs who misbehave - or even call off a session if things get really out of hand.

Why is it such a tough job?

Debates in the House of Commons can get very heated, especially during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) - when the prime minister answers questions from MPs on Wednesdays.

MPs will often shout and jeer at each other and call each other names.

In April, Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband made the news for using the insults "muppet" and "dunce" for each other.

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Watch the Speaker John Bercow tell off Education Secretary Michael Gove in February

With more than 600 MPs to control, it can be hard work keeping things running smoothly.

Who is the Speaker at the moment?

The current Speaker is John Bercow. He was elected on 22 June 2009.

He is the 157th Speaker of the House of Commons.

He was elected MP for Buckingham in 1997 as a member of the Conservative Party.

History of the Speaker

The Speaker role is more than 600 years old.

The first Speaker, Sir Thomas Hungerford, was appointed in 1377, but earlier versions of the role date back to 1258.

Sir Thomas Hungerford, first Speaker of the House of CommonsGetty Images
Sir Thomas Hungerford, first Speaker of the House of Commons

Until the 17th Century, the Speaker was seen as working for the king or queen. But the Speaker was often blamed if they brought news from Parliament that the monarch did not like.

Due to this, seven Speakers were executed between 1394 and 1535!