COMMONS speaker John Bercow clashed with his many challengers as he fought to win support from Princes Risborough voters.

Mr Bercow – Buckingham MP since 1997 – said he would be a good constituency MP and had better access to those in power.

Yet his opponents hit back over voters’ ‘lack of choice’ and his expenses at the hustings in Buckingham.

The event was organised by The Bucks Herald newspaper and held at The University of Buckingham.

Click here to listen to the full debate.

The Princes Risborough area moves into the constituency from Aylesbury at this election – but the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats will not put up candidates.

This has led to ten candidates lining up to fight Mr Bercow. He was a Conservative but is standing as an independent, as is custom for speakers.

Mr Bercow said: “It is a long standing convention that the major parties don’t stand against the speaker and that convention is ordinarily though not unfailingly observed.”

And he said: “Reflect upon an advantage for the constituency in having the speaker.

“I have better access to the people who make the decisions in this country than anyone else on this platform and than any other Member of Parliament.”

Yet independent John Stevens said it is ‘absurd that people of Buckingham will not have their voices heard’ over national issues.

And Princes Risborough indpendent Debbie Martin said: “The people of Princes Risborough and part of south Buckinghamshire feel total disenfranchised.

“We have been denied the right to vote for the political party of our choice at probably one of the most important elections in my lifetime.”

UK Independence Party candidate Nigel Farage said the ‘convention’ of not opposing the speaker is ‘nonsense’ and pointed to challenges in recent years.

And he said Mr Bercow’s appointment at a ‘relatively young age’ meant he could be speaker for 20 years or more – a claim which brought cries of ‘absolute nonsense’ from Mr Bercow.

Independent Patrick Phillips said there is ‘anger and confusion’ over the arrangement and said the speaker should hold the same ‘notional’ constituency.

Independent Geoff Howard said: “Tradition shouldn’t mean anything in this day and age.”

Monster Raving Loony Party candidate Colin Dale pointed to Mr Bercow ‘flipping’ his second home and said: “You have had everything you can get out of the job.”

Mr Bercow said only 13 and seven MPs claimed less than him from 2007 to 2009 and said: “I have behaved properly.”

He said he made clear speakers were sometimes opposed – and is ‘sanguine’ to moves to change the system.

And Mr Bercow rounded on Mr Stevens and said to applause: “You have waged the nastiest, filthiest, most vitriolic campaign in Buckingham in the history of this constituency.”

Mr Stevens said his strongly personal campaign literature (see link, bottom of story) had drawn facts from the national press.

The Christian Party’s David Hews, meanwhile, said the speaker should be ‘totally independent’ and called for an overhaul of values.

He said: “I would like to see this country turning back to what it was like in Victoria days. This was a god fearing nation.”

The debate turned to Government demands to build more houses.

Mr Farage blamed immigration for a surge in demand. He said: “We opened the door to Eastern Europe and said ‘as many as you who want to come and work and settle in Britain may do so’.”

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Mr Phillips said Government ‘quangos’ that have a say in housing policy are ‘unacceptable’ while Mr Stevens said demands from ‘on high’ is wrong.

Yet Mr Bercow said there were reasons ‘quite unrelated’ to immigration that was pushing up demand including young people leaving home earlier, more people splitting up and people living longer.

Pointing to an unauthorised gypsy camp at Hemley Hill near Princes Risborough, Mrs Martin said: “We run a really big risk of travellers taking over some of our land and developing it illegally.”

Simon Strutt, of The Cut the Deficit Party, said Labour’s plan to cut national debt was too slow. No area of Government should be protected in a bid to cut waste, he said.

He said: “The most ludicrous part of it is that you have got three major parties across the country kind of trying not to mention it.”

Mr Stevens said: “We have to cut fast in public expenditure, otherwise we risk losing the confience of international markets.”

Mr Farage said the EU cost too much and the UK suffered the ‘disease of bureacracy’. Yet Mr Bercow urged a ‘pragmatic’ atittude and said Britain cannot ‘walk away’ from Europe.

British National Party Lynne Mozar did not attend and independent Anthony Watts watched the debate but did not take part.

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