Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham hopes in a small way to put right the wrongs of his ancestors with deputy speaker job
08:45 16 October 2013
Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham hopes “in a small way” to put right the wrongs of his prime minister-killing ancestor by becoming deputy speaker.
The story of John Bellingham
Bankrupt and embittered businessman John Bellingham killed prime minister Spencer Perceval in the lobby of the Palace of Westminster on May 11, 1812, shooting him through the heart with a duelling pistol.
At his trial, just four days later, he pleaded not guilty to murder but was found guilty after 10 minutes.
The 35-year-old father of three, was hanged on May 18.
It was a sorry tale which led up to the events.
Bellingham, on a trip to Russia in 1803, was arrested over allegations of insurance fraud, following the sinking of a ship carrying some cargo he owned.
He sought help from the British authorities, but none came. He remained in a Russian jail for six years.
Eventually the charges were dropped but, in the meantime, he had become bankrupt.
Henry Bellingham is not sure precisely how they are related.
During a light-hearted lunchtime hustings between the seven candidates for the vacant deputy speaker role, the North-West Norfolk MP admitted the crime of John Bellingham – a bankrupt and embittered businessman who shot Spencer Perceval in 1812 – was an “appalling stain on his family’s character”.
But his genealogy does not seem to have had a detrimental impact on his campaign for the job, with his odds tumbling on him winning the secret ballot today.
He told an event for MPs and journalists that he would be a courteous speaker who would have his heart in helping backbench MPs.
Asked at the hustings about whether he wanted to distance himself from his ancestors, he said: “My family has had mixed fortunes over the years and I am very conscious that there is an appalling stain on my family’s character,
“Maybe in this I can, in a small way, help put this right 200 years on.”
There are suggestions that he is popular with the Labour Party – which will be crucial in today’s vote – because his Etonion and Cambridge roots would make him a weaker candidate against deputy speaker Lindsay Hoyle in a future speakership contest.
Mr Bellingham, speaking during the event organised by parliamentary communications and political information company Dods, would not be drawn on the assertion, saying that he was not even ruling out what he would do next week.
He is said to have won support during hustings with one Norfolk colleague saying that he had been very “witty” in private meetings with the Conservative 1922 committee and the Parliamentary Labour Party.
He has been building support for the role, which would involve chairing debates and running parliament, following the resignation last month of Nigel Evans, who is facing sex offence charges.
If the Norfolk MP were to become deputy speaker it would take away his right to a House of Commons vote. He has insisted that he would carry on as a backbencher, but said it would be in a “slightly different
role” as the “engine room” of parliament.
He is adamant that he would be there to fight for the constituency with extra access to ministers.