Sunday, 17 May 2009

Who should be the next Speaker?

With Nick Clegg and my local MP Danny Alexander joining in the chorus of calls for Speaker Michael Martin to quit, his days must be numbered.

So who should take over when he either quits or is forced out? One possibility would obviously be one of the current Deputy Speakers - Sir Alan Haselhurst, Sylvia Heal or Sir Michael Lord. Unfortunately, Sir Alan is one of those who have been named by the Daily Telegraph as being involved in the expenses scandal. Sir Michael, meanwhile, is 70. Although I don't think he's yet announced his retirement, the chances are that he'll be standing down at the next election.

That leaves just Sylvia Heal as the only Deputy Speaker who might realistically be in a position to take over. However, it's questionable to what extent just appointing one of the deputies would represent the sort of change that Parliament needs if it's to regain public confidence.

Another more telling reason why Sylvia Heal might not get it is that she would then be the third Speaker in a row to come from the Labour benches and I'm not sure that would be a great idea. Unfortunately, that is an argument that can be made against other possible candidates for the Speakership, such as Frank Field or Kate Hoey, both of whom would have the reforming credentials needed to take over as Speaker at this point.

If a non-Labour Speaker is to be appointed, some people in the past have suggested that Ming Campbell might be an appropriate choice. However, his involvement in the expenses row and the fact that he is a former party leader I think count against him. I would suggest the only likely Lib Dem candidate would be Sir Alan Beith - a man who is well respected throughout the House of Commons.

I have to say that I struggled to think of a Tory MP of sufficient seniority who hasn't been implicated in the expenses scandal, but then a name suddenly came to me: Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Again, he is well thought of throughout the House and would, I am sure, do the job very well. He has also indicated that he is standing for re-election next time.

But all this assumes that the House of Commons does what is necessary and removes Speaker Michael Martin as soon as possible. Any statement from the Speaker that he intends to stay in the job until the next election will be unacceptable. He must go now.


Frank H Little said...

If Sir Alan plans to continue in the House after the next election (I thought I read somewhere that he was thinking of standing down?), then he is the obvious choice. He was one of those who put himself forward in the proceedings which saw Michael Martin elected.

Bernard Salmon said...

Frank, I take it you mean Sir Beith, not Sir Haselhurst?

Frank H Little said...

Bernard, apologies for ambivalence. I had forgotten that A Haselhurst had been elevated.

Yes, I meant Lady Maddock's consort. ;-)

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