The office of Speaker of the United Kingdom House of Commons can trace its origins to 1258 when Peter de Montfort presided over ‘The Mad Parliament’ of that year. In 1376, Peter de la Mare was elected as Parliament’s first official spokesman but it was the following year, in 1377, that Sir Thomas Hungerford was the first person to be given the title of Speaker. It is during much more recent history, the period since 1945, however, that this ancient office has undergone its greatest evolution. This article will chart that post-war development and look at how examples from the Canadian Speakership have played a part in shaping its counterpart at Westminster.
Despite the fact that the Canadian Speakership has yet to achieve the same level of independence and impartiality as the much older and more established British one, in many ways it has been one step ahead of its counterpart at Westminster. One province, British Columbia, had the first woman to hold the office of Speaker anywhere in the Commonwealth. The Canadian House had a Speaker from the Opposition benches nearly seventy years before this took place in the United Kingdom and its method of electing the Chair would be copied when the previous system used at Westminster could not cope with more than two candidates for the post.