The Lancashire lad in the Speaker's Chair: Who is Sir Lindsay Hoyle as he faces Commons' crisis

Sir Lindsay Hoyle speaking at Chorley Theatre in 2023Sir Lindsay Hoyle speaking at Chorley Theatre in 2023
Sir Lindsay Hoyle speaking at Chorley Theatre in 2023 | Kelvin Stuttard
I don't usually speak up for politicians of any political persuasion - but I'll make an exception for Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

The last time I saw Sir Lindsay Hoyle in person he'd been stopped in the street by a family asking for a selfie after an 'in conversation' event for a small literary festival, hosted by yours truly, in the atmospheric small Chorley Theatre. It's telling that the free ticketed event, where he shared frank, amusing and typically painfully honest anecdotes about his life and career, was a sell out - and they definitely didn't come to see me.

Across the street and walking out of the market, a gruff Lancashire man in workman's blue overalls acknowledged him. Lindsay shouted a cheery hello back across the road and the man continued on his way.

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Meanwhile, another group had gathered, pensioners and families, and they approached him with shy smiles. He never says no to a picture and one woman confides to me as I wait, 'I don't even like Labour and it's annoying he can't vote but he's so nice'.

You can't say he doesn't take his Chorley duties seriously even if he now can't vote as Speaker - he spent almost every Saturday for a year standing up outside Chorley Hospital in rain or shine with campaigners - pushing for the reopening of a 24 hour A&E after it's post-Covid closure.

But that's Lindsay, who in his constituency of Chorley in Lancashire at least, is very much considered a man of the people and one of them. He may have been knighted in 2018 and be the Speaker of the House, but describes himself as 'Chorley through and through' and he is.

He lives in Adlington in a modest home with his wife Catherine and his menagerie of politically named pets including parrot Boris which is trained to shout 'Order, Order' and his Patterdale terrier named after his late friend and former speaker Betty Boothroyd. Not forgetting his tortoise, Maggie - no prizes who she's named after but she had a 'hard shell'. His 'Speaker's Cat' - Atlee - has his own Instagram account sharing his adventures. with his 18.3k followers.

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Meanwhile, his Lancashire accent could cut a Chorley cake with a knife, and he never misses an opportunity to mention his home town and surrounds. Famously, he brought the world's politicians to the area for a G7 summit where US politician Nancy Pelosi presented him with a US flag and even had a tentative nibble on some Chorley delicacies at Lindsay's behest. It was unheard of - as was Chorley to most of the visitors.

Lindsay Hoyle, pictured at the Freedom of the Borough parade in ChorleyLindsay Hoyle, pictured at the Freedom of the Borough parade in Chorley
Lindsay Hoyle, pictured at the Freedom of the Borough parade in Chorley | NW

I have no doubt, from my more than 20 years in journalism across Lancashire including as Editor of the Chorley Guardian, he's the most popular constituency MP I've known. I can say from personal experience, rather than any political affiliation, that he's just as kind and enigmatic behind the scenes as he is front of it and really cares. He's emotionally intelligent, which is more than can be said for many politicians of all political persuasions. But that's not to say he's not a consummate politician and is very capable of fury; as many in the house have discovered - you don't want to cross him.

Talking to the people of Chorley last year he admitted he had to learn to put his foot down with errant and rule-breaking MPs in the commons after the late Betty told him off for being soft in the early days of his speaking career. "She told me to throw some out so I did, " he said. "It hits them in the pocket as their pay is cut." He took Betty's advice on board and very shortly afterward, did just that.

Now he is facing the biggest challenge of his political career, if not his personal one. He lost his daughter Natalie Lewis-Hoyle in tragic circumstances when she was found hanged at the age of 28 just days after he had bought her a new car and spoken to her. Natalie's mum, Hoyle's former partner, Miriam Lewis told an inquest of Natalie's toxic relationship with an ex boyfriend - but with no real evidence the coroner recorded an open verdict and police did not press any charges.

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Lindsay has remained largely private about the "utter devastation" that followed. But when made Speaker he opened up in a speech: "There's one difficult part I want to get over. There is one person who is not here. My daughter, Natalie. I wish she could have been here."

Now he has apologised for a decision he took during a debate on the Gaza conflict which led to chaotic scenes at the heart of Westminster - and his future as Speaker is on the line.

The veteran politician was accused by the government of hijacking Wednesday’s proceedings - and even faced calls to resign when he later returned to the chamber to say sorry and explain to MPs that he had thought he had been doing the right thing. By mid-evening, 33 Conservative and Scottish National Party (SNP) members had tabled a motion of no confidence in him.

Will he survive? It's hard to tell. But there's always Chorley.

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