NEW POLL: who do you think should be the next Speaker?

by Stephen Tall on May 19, 2009

Well, it’s come to pass – Michael Martin is set this afternoon to resign as Speaker of the House of Commons after his botched handling of the row over MPs’ expenses. The question on everyone’s lips now is: who will replace him? We’ve set up a new poll asking just that question – here are the most-frequently touted candidates from whom to choose:

  • Diane Abbott
  • Sir Alan Haselhurst
  • Frank Field
  • Sir George Young
  • Richard Taylor
  • Vince Cable
  • Sir Menzies Campbell
  • Ken Clarke
  • Sir Alan Beith
  • David Davis
  • Norman Baker
  • Sir Patrick Cormack
  • Tony Wright
  • Other (please state in comments)
  • More important than who should do the job is this question: what do we actually expect the new Speaker of the House of Commons to do to help restore trust in Parliamentary democracy?

    There are all sorts of reforms we as Lib Dems might wish to propose – from Nick Clegg’s list of reforms through to proportional representation to limit the numbers of safe seats – but what will be a new Speaker’s role in all this?

    Suggestions below, please …

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    No comments

    The runners and riders lists on other web sites include John Bercow – which I think would be an interesting choice.

    by SusanA on May 19, 2009 at 1:45 pm. Reply #

    Not Sir Ming surely…

    by Biodiesel on May 19, 2009 at 1:46 pm. Reply #

    As a party, we cannot afford to lose one of our MPs to the Speaker’s Chair.

    Sir George Young has some fo the right attributes, but sadly his Committee has contributed to the mess. I don’t know much about Sir Alan Haselhurst, but as Deputy Speaker he has at least been road tested.

    On balance, probably Richard Taylor, because his neutrality is not in doubt.

    by Sesenco on May 19, 2009 at 1:54 pm. Reply #

    Surprised (at this early stage) by the level of support for Ming. If the defenestration of Michael Martin was done in the interest of the credibility of any reforms that might be ennacted, then surely to replace him with someone so damaged by this issue would be a complete waste of a very painful process.

    by Andy Hinton on May 19, 2009 at 1:55 pm. Reply #

    How can we as outsiders decide? Michael Martin came from nowhere as far as non-MPs were concerned. Presumably he was known among his fellows for his knowledge of procedure.

    Happier precedents are Bernard Wetherill and Dr HM King, low-profile MPs who became effective Speakers. I am voting here for Sir Alan Beith, because I know him to be a man of integrity, but that is not to say that such are not to be found on other benches.

    People I would not like to see as Speaker are: Norman Baker (we mustn’t lose his effectiveness as a campaigning MP), Sir Ming (it’s not too late for him to be Foreign Secretary in the next government), Diane Abbott (too partial, but also a thorn in the flesh of government), Vince Cable (future Chancellor) and Frank Field (as for Abbott).

    by Frank H Little on May 19, 2009 at 1:56 pm. Reply #

    @Sesenco: Richard Taylor’s neutrality is not in doubt? Why? Because he likes to stick the word “Independent” after his name? We have absolutely no idea what his own personal sympathies might be; for all we know, he might absolutely hate Tories, for instance.

    by Andy Hinton on May 19, 2009 at 1:59 pm. Reply #

    It’s going to be a Conservative, just a matter of which one.

    Menzies is out after last week Question Time appearance….but then this is a LibDem weighted website.

    by W on May 19, 2009 at 2:15 pm. Reply #

    I really don’t want us to lose voting power or speaking power by putting Ming, Alan or Norman in the Speaker’s Chair.

    Although there is no actual convention or rule, I think a third Labour Speaker in a row would be too much. However, we would presumably like to have someone who could be critical of a future Conservative government too.

    I’m voting for David Davis. I think he has the right combination of authority and independence and he is firmly on the side of reform and civil liberties.

    In the longer term, I think we need to totally change the way the Speakership works – it needs to stop being a long term gig, stop being a cosseted semi-retirement and become a modern presiding officer who manages the business of the House.

    Speakers should be elected for a maximum term of two years, during which time they return to their party and resume political activities, just like a mayor in a local council

    by Benjamin on May 19, 2009 at 2:21 pm. Reply #

    *after, not during – obviously

    by Benjamin on May 19, 2009 at 2:23 pm. Reply #

    Rarely would the vote of one solitary Lib Dem change the outcome of any division, so we wouldn’t be diluting our voting power. That’s a non-issue. We should go with whoever is best placed to deliver the change and reform that is so badly needed. If it’s one of ours so be it.

    by Anonymous on May 19, 2009 at 2:34 pm. Reply #

    Kate Hoey.

    by Anonymous1 on May 19, 2009 at 2:43 pm. Reply #

    Let us hope they fail to reach a conclusion and Jock Stirrup gets to choose someone to manage the closing down of the whole place|!

    Furthermore, there should now be a concerted effort to vote down the Finance Bill. That place has no right to choose how to spend my money whilst they are in a turmoil of their own making accounting for the little bit they themselves have spent of it.

    Now is the time of which David Hume wrote in 1745, and, surprise surprise, we’re not ready for it. We do not need a new speaker. We need a new method of government, or none.

    by Jock on May 19, 2009 at 2:45 pm. Reply #

    I’m surprised how frequently the argument about “losing” an MP comes up. What on earth are political parties for if it isn’t to get philosophically like minded people elected to office. The Speakership might be a non party political role but it is one wit signifigant power.

    The party should fully back a Lib Dem candidate for the job if one wants it.

    My personal choices would be Vince Cable given his age a real opertunity to deploy is talents in anatinal office or Sir Alab Beith. I cant think of a more decent public servant.

    Numerious other excellent candidates from other parties.

    by David Morton on May 19, 2009 at 2:55 pm. Reply #

    As to what the Speaker should do for reform; he has no voice but as the House shall tell him. He therefore must pick Committee Chairman, manage agendas and make life uncomfortable for those who do not accept reforms; so the House tells him what the country wants to hear.

    As for empowering MPs over such matters as letting them scrutinise expenditure properly, he must act as the backbenchers representative against the collective of the Party Whips. We need a Speaker who the Whips are unhappy with.

    As to people, I should enjoy seeing Diane Abbott take on the job. She would be very good at the reform role I have in mind. However, I fear that she would prove incapable of keeping MPs’ support: she would be likely to offend too many of them.

    George Young seemed to me the perfect Tory response to New Labour’s insistence on voting in Michael Martin as Speaker. I had hoped and expected to see George Young as Speaker in the next Parliament. He has all the desirable qualities Michael Martin lacks. However in these times reform requires more of one quality that Michael Martin has in super-abundance than George Young seems to possess. George Young is very unlikely to bully and offend enough of the recalcitrant MPs.

    Ming Campbell has the best balance of the qualities required in a Speaker who will have the present corruption and powerlessness of the Commons to correct. In addition, he is one of the few candidates capable of dressing down Clegg and the other party leaders when that is needed – as it is likely to be before the mess is sorted.

    by David Heigham on May 19, 2009 at 3:04 pm. Reply #

    Alan Beith will stand, according to Sky News.

    by Anonymous1 on May 19, 2009 at 3:11 pm. Reply #

    It’s Frank Field for me. Well respected, independent minded and mind like a steel trap.

    I would have loved it to be Ming (well deserved after a distinguished career) but it’s just his bad luck to have been tainted by this scandal (I feel somewhat unfairly compared to many others).

    Vince would be perfect for the job but I want him on our front bench, hence I am not voting for him!

    by Mark Reckons on May 19, 2009 at 3:16 pm. Reply #

    Members are elected by their constituents primarily because they are nominated by a political party. For a Member to become Speaker is therefore a betrayal of his/her constituents. Some years ago someone proposed creating a phantom constituency of “St Stephens” to get round this difficulty but was slapped down pretty fast. Now, what is this rubbish about not standing against the Speaker? It is OK to disenfranchise an entire electorate because of this absurd, outmoded system?

    by Sesenco on May 19, 2009 at 3:37 pm. Reply #

    Sir Alan – you’re hired!

    by Andrew Duffield on May 19, 2009 at 4:29 pm. Reply #

    Vince Cable has rightly ruled himself out, because the Party (and arguably the country) need him to continue as Shadow Chancellor.

    Since the electorate are MPs – not the media or regular TV viewers – I think Ming Campbell remains the only candidate who could attract sufficient cross-party support. What is crucial is to re-establish the convention that the Speaker should come from an opposition party, so that he or she can pursue radical reform in the face of government complacency.

    by Paul Tyler on May 19, 2009 at 4:36 pm. Reply #

    Let’s wait at least a week or two before answering that question [Who should be the next Speaker?]. Let’s concentrate on the job and the qualities it calls for in the next few days.

    A. The Speaker of the House of Commons is its chief officer and highest authority.

    B. To play that role in the 21st century it is necessary for the Speaker to be a
    credible and effective leader of a team that is capable of assisting and enabling the Commons to become a first rate legislature, debating chamber and scrutineer of the Executive.

    C. The Speaker must be impartial and fair (they are not the same thing). Keeping clear of party political controversy does not require the Speaker to remain neutral when pressure is applied to deny an unpopular point of view a proper hearing.

    D. The Speaker represents the whole House of Commons and must not only be willing but able to explain and defend its constitutional role as the primary forum for public debate and to advance its ability to carry out its principal task, which is holding the Executive to account.

    E. To fulfil the role of Speaker a Member of Parliament – to be freely chosen for the first time by a majority of Members of the House of Commons in a secret and exhaustive series of ballots – must have the authority and respect upon which the capacity to keep order in and respect outside the Commons depends.

    F. Now that the Chair of the House of Commons is no longer in the gift of Government Whips Members of Parliament, many of whom cannot expect to remain
    in the Commons after the next General Election, have an opportunity to put
    democratic ideals and the health of our parliamentary institutions before
    party interests. Given the damage that many of them have done to our democracy and to our parliamentary system they should take their time and view the election of a new speaker as an extraordinary and, in many cases, a final and undeserved opportunity to redeem themselves and the Commons.

    As a job description that may leave a great deal unsaid/to be desired…does anyone else want to add or subtract anything from it?

    by Ed Randall on May 19, 2009 at 4:43 pm. Reply #

    John Reid – a proven trouble shooter and plain speaker.

    Alan Milburn – out and out moderniser, good ideas man.

    by Coco on May 19, 2009 at 5:10 pm. Reply #

    Alan Beith.

    by crewegwyn on May 19, 2009 at 5:13 pm. Reply #

    Ming has tainted himself in the last week. I am delighted Sir Alan Beith is in the lead – I voted for him. He has the right no-nonsence eloquence and reforming mind. Go Sir Alan!

    by Paul Walter on May 19, 2009 at 5:38 pm. Reply #

    sir alan or david heath,

    by anon on May 19, 2009 at 5:48 pm. Reply #

    Vince would have been perfect in my opinion. Yes, we’d have lost a fantastic frontbench spokesman, but to a higher calling, in my view. No MP is held in such high regard across the political divide and – as importantly – by the public. But, he has now ruled himself out.

    My other choices would be radical reformers – Field, Hoey, Norman Baker etc.

    I fear Ming is a longshot following a rather harsh and unlucky battering over his expenses.

    In terms of what he/she should do – here’s a couple of off-the-top of my head, whacky ideas:

    1. Demystify the trappings of office of Speaker. E.g. no more prancing around in tights and gowns. Just wear a bloody suit.

    2. Extend the Speaker’s tole – at least temporarily – beyond the business of the House of Commons. The new Speaker should be appearing regularly on the media as he/she grapples with clearing up the expenses scandal.

    3. Take some concrete steps – say a constitutional convention of some sort – to widen the debate beyond the details of MPs expense claims and get to some of the root causes behind the problems.

    by Mark Littlewood on May 19, 2009 at 6:22 pm. Reply #

    Join this facebook group Sir Alan Beith for Speaker here:

    by jim on May 19, 2009 at 7:29 pm. Reply #

    Vince Cable would do a great job .. but the country needs him too much in the real world

    Alan Beith would be the best man for the job because he has the strength of character to gain the respect from the whole house

    I think the argument that Liberal Democrats cannot afford to lose oneof their small number to this role is a red herring.

    by Rabi Martins on May 19, 2009 at 9:11 pm. Reply #

    It’s great that we can consider so many from our own ranks for the position of Speaker without looking silly! It will probably go to an MP who is a thorn in the sides of the front bench of one of the two major parties, but Sir Alan has tremendous respect throughout the house and would be an ideal appointment

    by Stanley Theed on May 19, 2009 at 9:42 pm. Reply #

    I have thought for a long time that the Speaker should be empowered to insist that ministers actually answer the questions put to them.

    For example, if a minister ducks a question by talking in vague terms or about something else entirely, the Speaker should be able to demand a straight answer and, if none is forthcoming, suspend him or her from the House. This would be particularly effective at PMQs.

    Either that or the Speaker should be allowed to slap the minister with a large wet fish until he or she answers the question.

    by Mark on May 19, 2009 at 10:18 pm. Reply #

    “David Heath”

    Now that is an intriguing, and not completely off the wall, suggestion.

    by Hywel on May 19, 2009 at 11:10 pm. Reply #

    The only MPs who should be considered for the Speaker vacancy, should be those who can demonstrate an absolutely clean record on their expense claims over the years they have been an MP. The new Speaker must have the utmost integrity and command the full respect from all fellow MPs in the House whatever their politics. They should also be a person of humility, calm, not self seeking, nor ambitious for personal power and gain and who won’t have biased or unbalanced views, when topics are debated, they must be completely even handed. The MP who springs to mind who meets all of these qualities is Iain Duncan Smith who has claimed next to nothing in the last four years for second home or hotel expenses. He has the utmost integrity and of excellent good character and who is respected by all.

    His detailed report on ‘Breakdown Britain’ proved the excellent work he is capable of and that he sincerely has the welfare of the nation at heart. He is in politics for what he can give not what he can take. (unlike so many others in the present Parliament who seem to be out from what they can get).

    He is a man of humility with a clear speaking voice and also a good listener. He is the one who should be encouraged to stand and given full support across party lines from the whole House. He is the man to sort out this terrible mess and restore the publics confidence in Parliament and in the important office of Speaker of the House.

    He even showed great composure and dignity when he was forced to stand down as opposition leader, despite the fact he was stabbed in the back by people, in his own party, who showed themselves to have no loyalty and no decency in the way they publicly undermined a very decent person. A lesser person would of crumbled and later been full of vengeful bitterness. But not IDS he just carried on in his calm dignified way even though he must of been hurting inside. In my book he is an honest professional. He is a man of true honour.,a very rare find indeed these days.

    by Simon Icke on May 24, 2009 at 4:04 am. Reply #

    Anne Widdicombe is winning support from unexpected people in unexpected places..The Independent 19 June. John Hari: Widdecombe would win my vote…her politics are the polar opposite of mine. But she is the best for speaker:

    by Simon on June 21, 2009 at 8:32 pm. Reply #

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