NewsLocalFriendship and democracy “bind" Cyprus and UK together-Sir Hoyle

Friendship and democracy “bind” Cyprus and UK together-Sir Hoyle

Friendship and democracy “bind us together”, UK Speaker of House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle said on Saturday in an interview with the Cyprus News Agency ahead of a visit to Cyprus.  The bilateral friendship is at a high point, he added.

It was at the European Conference of Presidents of Parliament organised last October in Athens by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly that he had the opportunity to meet Annita Demetriou, the President of the House of Representatives.

Elected Speaker of the UK House of Commons in November 2019, he was keen to assert the role heads of legislature can play when they join forces, both in upholding democracy and in making a difference to people’s lives. The same desire and his counterpart’s invitation will bring him to Cyprus this week.

“What a pleasure it was to meet Her Excellency Speaker Demetriou. Not only had we the chance to have a good conversation, but I also received an invite to come (to Cyprus) and celebrate 60 years of the anniversary of Cyprus’s independence, even though it’s two years later because of the pandemic,” he told the news agency in his headquarters in Westminster.

His schedule includes a meeting with Demetriou and an address to the House of Representatives, in a first official visit to Cyprus by a UK Speaker.

“To be able to share in these celebrations is an absolute privilege for me. It is so important for the (bilateral) relationship. A visit to a very very important friend that is Cyprus. So, a big thank you to Cyprus and the people of Cyprus for inviting me.”

Sir Lindsay noted that the bilateral friendship is at a high point, something evident in the tens of thousands of Britons living in Cyprus and the hundreds of thousands of Cypriots living in the UK.

“It’s always good to be strong, isn’t it? It’s this interconnection of people going both ways, it’s that friendship.

Also, it is the fact that this has been developed over decades and therefore it doesn’t end, it continues to grow.” And this is what he is keen to explore with his visit.

“What more can we do to support each other’s countries, what more can we do to develop trade, better understanding, you know. We’ve got this great friendship but we can build on that and that’s what I would like to see both countries do,” he said.

Representing Chorley in Parliament since 1997, the 64-year-old politician is an ardent champion of democratic values. He considers safeguarding these values as a duty towards not only the historic institution he heads, but also towards the citizen; hence his firm belief that collaborating with his counterpart in a country that shares such values can have an impact.

“It is important (to meet). We have a role; we have a job to do. We believe in democracies. We are countries who have a democratic process. We are the people that are elected to represent our constituents. We have this common bind, this belief in democracy, that’s what binds us together… We could sit down, have a conversation, we could share knowledge, interact and build – it’s about building a future. Because if we haven’t got democracy, what have we got?»

He admitted, however, that the strength of democracy in the modern world is a concern for him.

“It’s been a difficult period and I’ve got to say that you go through waves and I think we are at a low point in democratic terms.” He refers to “bullies” around the world, the Capitol Hill riots, the threat of terrorism and also to the social media that can play “a major role in destabilising democracy” with “false ‘truths and false allegations” in their “dark side”.

He recognised that “shockwaves” from these risks for democracy have hit the UK as well. On the day of the interview, he had felt the need to issue a warning to MPs that “words have consequences”, following the abuse targeted against the leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer by an agitated crowd, partly motivated by a discredited allegation in Parliament against Sir Keir made by PM Johnson.

“The first thing is that what we cannot allow is mob rule,” said Sir Lindsay. His tone deepened when he referred to the murders of two MPs, Jo Cox and Sir David Amess, as well as a Parliament guard at the 2017 terrorist attack. “I want protest, I expect protest, (but) they must be peaceful and they must be lawful.”

A frequent scene in the Commons is when MPs engage in shouting either to express support or disapproval. He just smiled when asked if he ever felt like a headmaster reprimanding unruly pupils. Even though in such circumstances the debate might seem more exciting, does he ever worry about the quality of democracy projected?

“I’m Speaker of the House, I’m neutral. So, I’m neither on one side of the House or the other. But what I expect is tolerance and respect from each side of the House”. He referred to Erskine May, the so-called “Bible of parliamentary process” dated since 1844. “It says about moderate language.

That’s what we should be using in the chamber, moderate language. I don’t want us to agree, I want people to disagree but I want people to disagree in a respectful way. You don’t have to shout somebody down, far from it, you’ve lost the argument if that’s the level that you get to.

People say to me why do you stop people shouting ‘liar’. What would good debate degenerate to if that was allowed?“

In closing, he reverts to the upcoming visit. “I want to go back to go back to Cyprus because I love Cyprus. It’s a beautiful country and what a wonderful people! This to me is a great opportunity to just re-engage with Cyprus and I am so excited and looking forward to it. It’s going to be a fantastic visit!”

 

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