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Who will be the next speaker?

17th June 2009

The MPs who would like to be the next Speaker of the House of Commons put forward their cases at the first-ever election hustings for the post on monday. The hustings took place in front of television cameras and it is the first time the candidates have been subject to this amount of public scrutiny.

The candiadtes are Margaret Beckett (Lab), Sir Alan Beith (Lib Dem), John Bercow (Con), Sir Patrick Cormack (Con), Parmjit Dhanda (Lab), Sir Alan Haselhurst (Con), Sir Michael Lord (Con), Richard Shepherd (Con), Ann Widdecombe (Con), Sir George Young (Con).

The eight male and two female MPs in the contest tried to win fellow members over by outlining their priorities. As well as the hustings, would-be Speakers are publishing manifestos and campaigning in the open.

Tory MP John Bercow, the bookmakers' favourite, said the next Speaker must be "an ambassador" for Parliament.

The candidates then answered questions from other MPs on their proposals for reform of Parliament including changes to Prime Minister's Questions and whether MPs needed such a long summer break.

Mr Bercow said he was the "clean-break" candidate as he had never stood for the office before or been a minister.

"We have to restore trust in politics," he said, adding that he would be an "agent of necessary and overdue change" for Parliament in the wake of the expenses scandal.

Many Labour MPs are said to recognise it is time for a Tory to take on the role after two Labour Speakers in succession and some see the liberal Mr Bercow as the best option.

Tory veteran Ann Widdecombe said the next Speaker had to be "known" to voters and said she had the "vulgar attributes" to help Parliament re-connect with the public.

She is probably the candidate who is best known to the public after appearing in TV programmes such as Celebrity Fit Club and Have I Got News For You.

Former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said she would be a "healing Speaker" and defended her impartiality after recently standing down as a minister.

She said the next Speaker would have to deal with "tremendous challenges", including the possibility of a hung Parliament, which would require "delicate" handling.

Other people who took part in the hustings were the Conservative chairman of the Commons standards and privileges committee Sir George Young and Liberal Democrat Sir Alan Beith.

MPs vote in a secret ballot next Monday, 22nd June to choose a successor to Michael Martin who quit over the expenses scandal. It is the first time that the vote will be held in secret.


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