Speaker election gets X-Factor makeover

June 15, 2009

The winds of change are sweeping through a dusty Houses of Parliament as the race to succeed the Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin hots up.

With MPs trying to get their house in order as the expenses scandal rumbles on, the election procedure for the new Speaker has had a makeover, with election hustings to take place for the first time.

Organised by the political research charity the Hansard Society the hustings will televised, with would-be candidates publishing manifestos and campaigning ahead of a secret ballot by MPs.

So far so good.

Until that is you peruse the list of the 11 candidates jostling to succeed Martin.

Former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, Frank Field and Parmjit Dhanda are the Labour MPs who have thrown their hat into the ring.

Conservative backbencher John Bercow is the bookmakers’ favourite, with Tory MPs Sir Patrick Cormack, Sir Alan Haselhurst, Sir Michael Lord, Richard Shepherd, Ann Widdecombe and Sir George Young also in the running. For the record that’s just four Sirs on the Tory shortlist.

Sir Alan Beith is the sole Liberal Democrat candidate.
It would be interesting to find out how many members of the public would recognise any of these candidates if they were shown mugshots of the MPs.

No doubt caravanners would know who Beckett is, while Widdecombe’s appearances on television programmes such as Have I Got News For You and Celebrity Fit Club probably make her the most recognisable of the aspiring Speakers.

But why does the Speaker have to be an MP, given their political affiliations and the fact that they must remain impartial in chairing debates in the Commons chamber.

So for a bit of Parliament X-Factor what about Sir Alan Sugar, Simon Cowell or Joanna Lumley for Speaker?

You decide.

One comment

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The officials of any club have by definition to be members of that club to ensure that they have common cause with the members they oversee. How then can the Speaker of the House Of Commons be anyone other than an MP?

The whole charade surrounding the Speaker issue is nothing but a distraction from what is (or more importantly, what ISN’T) being done elsewhare in politics. Fiddling while Rome burns would seem to be an appropiate description of it.

My best bets are Dhanda, as a nauseating “expression of the House’s commitment to diversity” or Bercow, a Blair figure who will swing in whatever direction the wind blows to keep all sides happy.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive