Lindsay Hoyle: The Speaker from a very political - and very Labour - family

Sir Lindsay Hoyle in the Commons chamber
Sir Lindsay Hoyle's time as Speaker may end much sooner than he wants - STEFAN ROUSSEAU/PA ARCHIVE

He was the clubbable, honest backbench champion who was brought in to heal the post-Brexit rifts in Parliament in the wake of the damaging speakership of John Bercow.

According to the biography on his official website, Sir Lindsay Hoyle stood in 2019 on a pledge “to keep MPs, staff and their families safe, to be an impartial chair and improve the image of Parliament”.

In his acceptance speech, he stated that “this House will change, but it will change for the better”. Most importantly, he pledged to be a “transparent” Speaker.

He also courted cross-party popularity by naming his menagerie of pets after parliamentary figures from across the political system: parrot Boris, tortoise Maggie and cat Attlee.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle takes part in a parliamentary Shrove Tuesday pancake race
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who had a reputation as an eccentric as a backbench MP, takes part in a parliamentary Shrove Tuesday pancake race - ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP

Sir Lindsay has made it clear he wants to stay as Speaker after the election - but Wednesday’s events mean his career may end much sooner than he wants.

His promises on impartiality and transparency look distinctly tarnished. He had defined himself entirely in opposition to Bercow, who gained the reputation of being strongly partisan in his opposition to Brexit.

Now Sir Lindsay stands accused of being partisan towards his former party - Labour – and many Conservatives are wondering whether they can trust him again.

The speaker is from a very political - and very Labour - family.

He attended his first Labour conference with his father Doug as a babe in arms, and from the age of seven he campaigned for his bids to get elected to Parliament.

In 1980 he was the youngest councillor ever to be elected in Chorley, Lancashire, and worked his way up to become deputy Labour leader there.

When he became an MP in 1997 he was the first Labour candidate to be elected for the Chorley constituency for 18 years, and he has kept his seat ever since, even when the Conservatives returned to government.

In his early years he seemed a harmless eccentric, championing causes including a campaign for London’s Heathrow Airport to change its name to Diana, Princess of Wales Airport after her death.

Tony Blair called him a “loony” when in 1998 he asked the prime minister to look into the supposed involvement of “British security agents” in Paris on the fateful night she died.

He put down a series of parliamentary questions and asked Blair to “clear up some of the secrecy and controversies” over the affair.

Sir Lindsay later clashed with Blair over issues such as tuition fees and Gibraltar, but over the Brexit debate he stayed above the fray. He is one of the few MPs never to have said which way they voted.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle with Volodymyr Zelensky
Sir Lindsay Hoyle was presented with a Ukrainian pilot's helmet by Volodymyr Zelensky when the president addressed parliamentarians at Westminster Hall - STEFAN ROUSSEAU/PA

In 2010, he became deputy speaker of the Commons and chairman of ways and means – the official who presides over Budget speeches.

After the divisive Bercow years, he was always the frontrunner to replace him as Speaker.

Many Tories saw him as more impartial than some of the other Labour figures who stood for the role, and supported him. He rescinded his Labour party membership soon afterwards.

Until Wednesday, his tenure as Speaker had been pretty free of controversy.

But his actions during the Gaza debate risk undermining the trust and respect he had previously enjoyed.