LONDON — In earlier times, the position of speaker of the House of Commons was one of the country’s most perilous. Two of its former incumbents were beheaded on the same day, for doing something or another that upset the monarch.
On Monday, more than five centuries after that bloodletting, Lindsay Hoyle, an opposition Labour lawmaker, took on the daunting but less life-threatening challenge of succeeding John Bercow, who battled to keep order during one of the most turbulent periods of recent parliamentary history — becoming a celebrity in the process.
As tradition dictates, the new speaker was dragged to the chair in a ceremony designed to display his reluctance to assume the position. In fact, he had waged a long, hard battle for one of the most coveted posts in British politics, which comes with prestige, perks and a salary higher than the prime minister’s.
From the north of England, Mr. Hoyle, 62, has a wealth of experience as the deputy speaker. He presented himself as a stable and neutral force in a Parliament that was first divided, then paralyzed, by Brexit.
“I will be neutral, I will be transparent ” Mr. Hoyle said after his election on Monday. “This House will change, but it will change for the better. ”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson congratulated the new speaker, predicting he would bring his “signature kindliness and reasonableness to our proceedings.”
In the coming months Brexit is likely to thrust Mr. Hoyle into the spotlight, but most analysts expect him to be a lower-key figure than his flamboyant predecessor.
During a decade in the job, Mr. Bercow shouted “order” with his trademark, gravelly-voiced cry almost 14,000 times, according to one analysis, and chided politicians in famously antiquated language. Those talking out of turn and while seated were admonished for “chuntering from a sedentary position. One lawmaker was told: “Be a good boy, young man!”
But Mr. Bercow was also divisive.
With his love of the limelight and willingness to bend the rules of Britain’s unwritten constitution, he has been one of the political stars of the Brexit saga.
Not only does the speaker preside over debates, he or she is charged with interpreting the arcane rules of Parliament. It was in that interpretive role that Mr. Bercow played a critical part in the events of the last few months by allowing lawmakers to legislate to stop Britain leaving the European Union without an agreement.
That prompted claims from critics that he aided opponents of Brexit. Mr. Bercow said he was simply standing up for the rights of lawmakers.
In his campaign for the job, Mr. Hoyle stressed his impartiality and, answering questions last month, carefully refused to say how he had voted in the 2016 referendum on British withdrawal from the European Union.
“This is about making sure, whoever is in power, that those on these benches have the right to question and hold to account,” Mr. Hoyle said in his pitch, referring to the green leather seating for lawmakers in the House of Commons.
He takes over at a time when faith in Parliament is at a low ebb, with British politics fractured by divisions over Brexit and lawmakers on the receiving end of abuse and threats, particularly over social media. In a sign of the growing worries about safety, Mr. Hoyle on Monday said he would work to further improve security for members of Parliament.
“I promise that I will continue to fight to make sure that we are safe, our families are safe, our staff are safe and the House is safe,” he said.
Mr. Hoyle, whose father was also a Labour member of Parliament, was elected by his peers in a series of ballots that whittled down seven candidates. But the timing of the election was unusual, coming just a day before legislators are scheduled to break for a general election campaign to elect a new House of Commons.
Dating back more than 600 years, the job of speaker comes with an illustrious history, though Mr. Bercow prided himself on modernizing Parliament and casting off some of the most hidebound traditions surrounding the speaker’s position. However, he has been criticized for failing to tackle a culture of harassment, sexual and otherwise, in Parliament, and he himself has faced accusations of bullying, which he denies.
Past speakers have traditionally been offered a place in the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber of Parliament, though that is determined by the prime minister. As Mr. Bercow has angered many within the Conservative Party, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that honor cannot be taken for granted.
Since this is the British Parliament, Mr. Bercow could not simply hand in his notice to vacate his parliamentary seat. Instead, Mr. Bercow did what is normally referred to as “taking the Chiltern Hundreds,” by accepting a purely symbolic appointment that provides a legally watertight escape route from the House of Commons.
So, a few hours before his replacement was dragged to the speaker’s chair, Mr. Bercow was on Monday given another position: Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead, a symbolic post with no actual duties.
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