So it was that this afternoon I have been trying to read up on the Speaker's hustings held earlier today. I have to say that I am being very picky about it, dismissing some candidates for simplistic reasons, but I feel we need to be very picky given the recent debacle with MP's expenses and Speaker Martin's downfall. Some I think are just not strong enough, a good half are tainted by the expenses issue, and some I think are too much the grandee with roots heavily ties with the past.
Initally, albeit with strong reservations, I thought of Ann Widdecombe and Parmjit Dhanda. Widdecombe may be objectionable, but she is also popular with the media and with a good fraction of the general public, plus she respects Parliament and does not suffer fools gladly. Plus she is also standing down at the next general election, so more time to consider a longer term replacement. Dhanda is young, has radical ideas for the post (although I really am unsure of some of them), plus he was not tainted by the expenses row. Not only that but he is the only worthwhile non Tory MP in the race. Alan Beith is tainted by the expense row, Margaret Beckett is likewise tainted and made such an error of judgement on BBC Question Time some weeks ago it was embarrassing, plus she polarises opinion of her within the Labour Party. Many activists (myself among them), simply do not like her and for several good reasons.
That said, just as I have despaired over this, I have come to a conclusion, albeit with mixed feelings.
One chap did well at today's hustings. He was humble but firm, spoke of being the servant of the House of Commons "without fear or favour". He has spoken of a "robust impartiality", and whilst he has a reputation for being a traditionalist and an old-style Parlamentarian in the Roy Jenkins mould, he has stated that "...I don't stand for flacid traditions", and "Do we really want our elected representatives to be subject to an appointed quango?"
Its not a wholehearted support from me, but we don't have much choice around. That said I think this guy might just pull it off. Ladies and gentlemen, I hope the next Speaker will be Sir Patrick Cormack