UK lawmakers electing new Speaker to replace John Bercow


AP, London :
British lawmakers are electing a new House of Commons speaker on Monday to replace the influential but controversial John Bercow.
Bercow retired last week after a decade as speaker that saw him become a central player in Britain's Brexit drama.
Like Bercow, the new speaker will run the daily business of the Commons, keeping lawmakers in line with robust cries of "Order!"
Some politicians want to see a more cautious approach than that taken by Bercow, who prided himself on making the government answer to Parliament. The speaker is supposed to be an impartial arbiter of Parliament's rules, but critics accused Bercow of favoring anti-Brexit politicians at the expense of supporters of leaving the European Union. There are eight contenders to succeed him, including Bercow's three deputies - Lindsay Hoyle, Rosie Winterton and Eleanor Laing - and long-serving Labour lawmaker Harriet Harman.
The candidates will each get five minutes to address legislators before Monday's secret-ballot vote. There will be rounds of voting with the lowest-placed contender dropping out each time, until one candidate secures majority support.
The choice of a new speaker comes as Britain gears up for a Dec. 12 early election in which all 650 seats in the House of Commons are up for grabs. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservatives are hoping to win a majority that could unblock Britain's political deadlock and let Johnson fulfill his pledge to take Britain out of the European Union.
The left-of-center Labour Party is trying to shift the campaign's focus from Brexit to domestic political issues such as schools, health care and Britain's social inequities.
The centrist Liberal Democrats, who want to cancel Brexit, and the single-issue Brexit Party are battling for voters with strong views on whether the U.K. should quit the 28-nation EU or not.
The man in the middle of more than three years of fiery parliamentary debates has proved a controversial figure, loathed by pro-Brexit supporters and hailed by its foes.
A social media mash-up by German television of Bercow trying to calm down rowdy MPs has been seen more than a million times. A Belgian newspaper called him "irreplaceable".
Johnson paid guarded tribute to the outgoing speaker, likening Bercow's glare to a "trademark Tony Montana scowl", after Al Pacino's character in the 1983 film "Scarface".
Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn added: "You've done so much to reform this House of Commons and our democracy is the stronger for the way you have done it."