The work of the House of Commons is overseen by the Speaker, who chairs proceedings and keeps order. Two deputies, also MPs who have renounced their party allegiance, act as substitute speakers.

MPs elect a Speaker to chair proceedings from among their ranks at the first meeting following a general election. The Speaker immediately renounces party affiliation and votes only in the rare case of a draw. As is normal practice, the chair always backs the status quo.

The Speaker is the Commons' official representative to the monarch. As such, the position was historically a precarious one. Because of this, and in spite of the significant salary and grand accommodation provided for the holder of the post, the successful candidate traditionally demonstrates his or her reluctance to take up the chair by being 'dragged' from the back-benches.

By convention, a sitting Speaker is elected unopposed after each general election. A Speaker is, then, normally elected only after a retirement or death.