BBC BLOGS - Nick Robinson's Newslog
« Previous | Main | Next »

Speak - er, erm?

Nick Robinson | 11:12 UK time, Monday, 22 June 2009

The Speaker is dead, long live er, erm, someone who'll do it better.

Ever since Michael Martin was dragged back out of the Speaker's chair, Westminster has waited and watched in the hope that someone would emerge as a strong consensus candidate to fill his seat. No-one has.

In part, this is because the Speaker is being asked to fill a bewildering array of roles - parliamentary figurehead, presiding officer, protector of parliament's rights, reformer, backbench shop steward, public spokesman, chief executive and saint.

In part, it is because many Labour and Tory MPs appear to be governed by entirely negative factors.

Many Labour MPs are telling me that they're...

• NOT going to vote for one of their own party as then they get the blame for the mess

• NOT going to back another Old Etonian - Sir George Young - after all, they say, aren't the Mayor of London and possible next PM enough?

• NOT going to back a Lib Dem - Alan Beith - as his party brought down Michael Martin

That's how many end up backing John Bercow.

Many - perhaps most - Tories say they're...

• NOT backing Bercow because he's NOT really a Tory at all and, as I reported before, they find him objectionable

That's how many end up backing Margaret Beckett.

With the Commons due to spend the whole of today on choosing their next Speaker, I hope MPs begin to focus on the positive.

The next Speaker's powers are, in truth, limited. He or she will not transform the expenses system since it is likely to go to an outside body. He or she will not be able to lead reform or increase the power of backbenchers on their own.

The public power they will have is rather like that of Prince Charles - to use the status of their position to speak out occasionally to stop something they don't like or demand attention for an issue that's being ignored.

HRH used that power to oppose building projects and to warn us about the threat to the environment.

Speaker Martin failed to use it to warn MPs about their expenses system or to block police access to Parliament.

The next Speaker is likely to be judged by the public by whether they speak up for those who send MPs to Parliament and how they stand up to the powerful on their behalf.


Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Same old politics, same old self-interest, same old game.

    This parliament is incapable of change.

    Time for the people to change them.

    Call the general election.

  • Comment number 2.

    A labour speaker would be dire for democracy, will tories vote for this and make GB look even more tainted....

    VIRGIN SPEAKER - gets my vote.

  • Comment number 3.

    If they had any courage they would vote for Richard Shepherd. He is one of the few who walks the walk on expenses, not just talking the talk. He's supported FoI for MPs, made modest expenses. He seems that he's more interested in being a good reforming MP, not a defender of MPs and their most nefarious activites. And for those reasons, he won't win ... typical.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    After all the fuss
    denigrate expectations.
    Radical reform?

  • Comment number 6.

    Even the suggestion of Margaret Beckett as speaker either shows how out of touch MP's still are with the general publics feelings or they are showing utter contempt towards us.

  • Comment number 7.

    Why do you not tell us your personal favourite? Like a LOWER GRADE Prince of Wales, surely your views are acceptable in some circles and it may focus the minds of some,currently undecided.

    Why do you not tell us your favourite for the post? Like a LOWER GRADE Prince of Wales, surely your views are acceptable in some circles and it may help some undecided members.

    Surely you do not wish Mrs.Beckitt on us? A third Labour Speaker in a row is totally unacceptable. The same would apply to any other party. As Bercow appears to be a Labour sympathiser, that rules him out. Lets go for Anne Widdecombe,although Tory, I think she is honest.

  • Comment number 8.

    Mrs Beckett is the government's choice - business as usual and a great disappointment if she gets it. However given her reputed enthusiasm for caravanning she may be able to adopt a squeeky clean position on second homes?

  • Comment number 9.


    If "many are not going to vote for one of their own party"

    how can you conclude:

    "That's how many end up backing Margaret Beckett."

    If the MPs want to get back on side with the public then they'd better elect Ann Widdicombe. Let's not forget how Beckett was booed in Question Time. She will not be a "people's speaker".

  • Comment number 10.

    It will do for most people, I venture, if the next speaker manages to hold the prime minister to account at PMQs.

    How long is it since we have heard the words - Will the prime minister answer the question...???

    Everything else is irrelevant. Until parliament actually works int he way it was designed - as an accountable body - its authority will continue to ebb away.

    Charity begins at home, as they say.

  • Comment number 11.

    Having seen Margaret Becketts performance on Question Time rcently, I am surprised she is even in the frame to become speaker let alone the bookies favourite. If Margaret Beckett is the best person for the job in the opinion of MPs then we are all in much greater trouble than we could possbily imagine.

    Do MPs really think she would be a good speaker, and the person to help re-establish confidence and trust in House of Commons politics ? I can't see it myself.......

  • Comment number 12.

    Is the bit about the re-branding of parliament true?

  • Comment number 13.

    This is better than X Factor. Probably. I've never actually seen X Factor but from what I've gathered this must be better.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm staggered that any MP who saw Beckett on question time could think of supporting her.

    She displayed a lofty arrogance that would have better suited a 10th generation aristocrat in the House of Lords than a supposed Labour politician. No hint of understanding of why people were angry, just a patronising demeanour that seemed to say that she was surprised the 'common' people thought they even had the right to criticise her. She didn't suggest to the audience that if they didn't have bread they could eat cake but it wouldn't have been a surprise if she had.

  • Comment number 15.

    Is anyone running this country at the moment?

    Trolley Dolly Brown wheeled out continuosly to make so called reassuring
    three or four line statements to the public to try to cover up the continuing incompetences being unearthed daily has become totally unbearable.

    Parliament has become more like a game show. Silly people trying to get the better of each other and creating even more mayhem.

    If the new speaker is not the popular choice by the people they will become even more angry.

    We can't have an election because we are too angry.

    We can't have a full public enquiry on Iraq because we are too angry.

    We can't be told the truth about anything because we are too angry.

    These politicaians don't yet know what real anger is. By the time we can show it at the ballot box we will be spitting blood.

  • Comment number 16.

    MPs just don't understand, do they. Anyone reading the various public comment sites, 'have your say' etc, should realise that the PUBLIC seem to want Anne Wydecombe, irresprctive of their politics. If the MPs had an ounce of sense, they would be voting for her - a 'win win' situation. If she performs as many believe she will, confidence in MPs and Parliament will begin to return. If she makes a hash of it, they can claim thay were listening to the publics opinion.

  • Comment number 17.

    A P.M. booed by D Day veterans and a Speaker (if she is elected) booed by a Question Time audience. A really good start to the new order!

  • Comment number 18.

  • Comment number 19.

    It will not make any difference who they choose..does it have to be an MP, cant they give the Job to Alan Sugar?

  • Comment number 20.

    If they are nothing but window dressing why bother having a speaker, can we not have a do er instead

  • Comment number 21.

    At a time when the very health of democracy is at threat and public confidence is at an all time low Labour look to be planning to railroad in a "Zombie" in Beckett.

    That won't restore confidence with the public.

    It smacks of fear and trying to restrict the agenda.

    If Beckett wins I wonder whether traditions will be broken and the Tories will try to shift her when they get in.

    Personally I hope the young Labour Asian candidate - whose name I forget and that does not help - wins as he seems to be for plain speaking and against "men in tights" traditions.

    I vote Lib Dem but I'm not a member in case they lose their battle over the Brown contribution.

  • Comment number 22.

    Ann Whiddicombe would bring the breath of fresh air parliament needs, more important, the nation is crying out for. Politics would be interestng again.
    I feel Ann Whiddicombe ticks all the boxes.
    The public respects her for her candidness. She does not beat about the bush, a spade is a spade. She presents as someone with humility,a sense of humor, witt, intelligence and honesty. No messing, no hidden agenda and no over inflated ego.
    I might not share all of her political views but I can't think of anyone more suitable.

  • Comment number 23.

    This morning, on my way to work, I saw Margaret Beckett in the back of a shinny beige jag being driven around Parliament Sq.
    Assuming that we were paying for this, why?
    She has no ministerial position at the moment does she?

    I have never agreed with Ken Livingstone's politics, but I did see him on the Bakerloo line in the mornings.
    He had the moral integrity to do that.

    Margaret Beckett tells us about her caravan but claims for her gardening and gets driven around. I hope it's not her!

  • Comment number 24.

    So the Titanic Ship of State will have a new Captain. Is there anyone in the nation who feels this will solve the problem?

  • Comment number 25.

    It seemed at first as if the Speaker was going to be judged on expenses, but now we see Beckett and Bercow as front runners, when it seems as if they are as guilty as any of the candidates, Beckett in particular. I also happen to think that neither would do a very good job. If expenses are still to play a significant part then Ann Widdecombe seems to be the best, possibly the only good candidate unaffected by expenses.
    If not, it would make sense to elect Sir Alan Haselhurst who, as a Deputy Speaker, knows how the job is done and would do it well. He stood in for Michael Martin two years ago and did a very good job. He is widely respected across the house and probably deserves it.
    Well, we'll see how it turns out. Today could well make or break this Parliament and possibly too the democracy of this country.

  • Comment number 26.

    We will now be seeing the Labour Whips working at full speed trying to drum up support for Margeret Beckett whom has shown herself in every way to have been a very poor M.P. with very little command in the understandings of how much our Westminster Parliament needs to be Changed, as well as raking in for herself Expenses payments of over 11K for Gardening.

    The right choice for the Chair as Speaker would be Ann Widdercombe whom has already indicated that see only wishes to be seen as a Caretaker Speaker only up until the calling of the next General Election, whereby then she will step down allowing a "New" Parliament of the Peoples choice to further allow for again the selection of a further "New" Speaker for the "New" Era in British Politics to be chosen, to better represent both then our newly elected M.P.s' at Westminster and the People.

    This to me seems to be the fairest way forward thus allowing for the People to decide who should be elected as "THEIR" next M.P. in the NEXT reforming Government after the next General Election, which again allows for those newly elected M.P.s' to further voice their Votes again for a Reforming Speaker of "THEIR" choice,

    It is now well and truly time to DUMP the Old-Guards in British Politics, and clean up and reform & renew the Westminster System.

  • Comment number 27.

    Michael Martin has gone!! Nooooo!!!!!

    Orrr....Orrrrrrr.....Order!!! there will never be another like MM!!!

  • Comment number 28.

    The prospect of Mrs Beckett becoming speaker fills me with despair.
    Government whips conniving demonstrates that Brown & Co are not listening at all but treating the public with contempt.
    After the debacles of Martin's speakership, the expenses scandal and this apparent manipulation of the system I would suggest we (the people) need a truly independent person to exercise a degree of control over the house ~ how about a direct election?
    Perhaps there is no chance of that but there should be no chance of Beckett becoming speaker - who will rid us of the troublesome politician?

  • Comment number 29.

    If the MP who becomes Speaker is tainted in anyway with the expenses 'sleaze' then a peoples candidate should stand against them, as convention dictates the major parties contrive not to fight in the Speakers constituency making it the 'safest seat' in the country.

    If the population are serious about sending a message to Parliament then that should be the verdict.

    ps Following the official publication of 'sanitised' expenses lists I believe a suitable term should be coined to go down in the annals of History to describe the Parliamentary period 2005 - 2010 I offer the following

    the "Shabby" Parliament (further suggestions welcome)

    I commend the suggestion to the House (as the MP's would say!)

  • Comment number 30.

    With luck they will ignore to people putting their names forward and Vote Brown in as Speaker.....

    At least as speaker he can do a LOT less damage to the country.

  • Comment number 31.

    Parliament is back in session. What do the public want for the next speaker???

    That clearly doesn't matter because once again, it's the MPs with all the power making all the decisions while the public are stuck outside the barbed wire perimeter. Do the people's voices matter in this case?????

    No. Have MPs learnt from their mistakes?????

    No. The public want their say, that's a major contributing factor to the continually growing anger but all we get is MPs saying their listening, they want change and then the moment they're back in Westminster it's all back to business as usual.

    Although two points occur to me.

    Why does the speaker have to be an MP??
    Why does the speaker have to be from the political elite??

    I actually have no idea on these. I'm guessing it's in some rules and regulations somewhere but as part of reform, but I feel a good candidate for bringing order to parliament should have origins unrelated to parliament.

    Maybe there will be people who disagree but I don't see why we can't have someone from outside the elitist club of parliament.

    Nick, you make democracy sound fun. It's not about why you should vote for someone, it's about why you should vote for someone else. That's why we need an election, so that people can vote for anything but Labour and let Gordon know that he may have his mission but for the vast majority of the general populace, we can see that the mission has failed, the ship has sunk and it's time for a new ship with a new captain.

    And suddenly speaking of that, it makes me think what Captain Jack Sparrow (from Pirates of the Carribbean movies) would be there's an interesting thought.

  • Comment number 32.

    This depressing episode highlights once again the urgent need for an immediate general election - at the behest of HM The Queen.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    To concentrate the minds of the MPs they need to realise that the public just will not accept any Speaker who has flipped their home, dodged taxes or misbehaved in any way with taxpayer funds.

    The Members of Parliament are now to be examined by the public on the expenses scandal and they have to come up with the right answer. They have only the one chance.

  • Comment number 35.

    Margaret Beckett is too associated with the current Government and would be yet another Labour speaker. Is that really acceptable to the public at present?

    If she wins, what chance an attempt to unseat her in the General Election by someone of high profile?

  • Comment number 36.

    Another less than great article Nick.

    Could i suggest you look at another bbc area called Have Your Say. There is one clear frontrunner being called for time and time again- ANNE WIDDECOMBE.

    In this great new era of transparency surely this must stand for something?

    And why did you omit Anne Widdecombe (the peoples clear choice) from your article altogether?

  • Comment number 37.

    It MUST be Becket - she is a perfect illustration what Nu Liebour stands for and will be a constatnt reminder to voters until 2010.

  • Comment number 38.

    Politicians just don't get it do they. Voting Margaret Becket as the speaker is just sticking two fingers up at the public. After her disgraceful sneering performance on question time, she would be regarded with disdain, even disgust, by the public.

    Come on Gordon, how many times can you get it wrong? For somebody who parrots he "is listening", one wonders just who he is listening to? It doesn't seem to be the country, as evidenced by just about any blog or HYS site.

  • Comment number 39.

    Whats the betting on The Telegraph exposing some juicy bit of expenses shinanigins of the newly elected speaker whom ever it be.
    This will go on and on until all 646 MP's stand down and give another 646 people the chance to milk the public purse. A speaker is still an MP and will thus be taineded with what has gone on before. A name change doesnt mean a behaviour change.

  • Comment number 40.

    Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish.

    All the candidates are the same old party political stalwarts and the whips are making sure the result goes their way.

    Is this a reflection of the Democratic ideals our MP's hold? Call an election, state that 'anyone can enter' - but then make sure the winner can only be from 2 people - both of which you're happy with.

    Sounds familiar? That's right, it's the same old fake Democracy they have been forcing on the people for years.

    How is it Democratic when the actual system is a choice of 2 and there is no chance of a new entrant breaking the field (The Lib. Dems have come closest and it's taken my entire lifetime and they're still not there).

    Democracy means 'ruled by the people' - not 'ruled by the biggest group of people' - which isn't even true as the biggest group of people in this country are the ones who DON'T VOTE.

    Maybe if all the non-voters were classed as a 'no Government' vote then the Anarchists would be running the country (or more accurately - letting it run itself).

    I wouldn't give the candidates for speaker a dose of the swine flu - let alone trust them to micro-manage the most powerful and inept bunch of snotty schoolboys (and girls) in the country.

  • Comment number 41.


    "Margaret Beckett is too associated with the current Government and would be yet another Labour speaker. Is that really acceptable to the public at present?

    If she wins, what chance an attempt to unseat her in the General Election by someone of high profile?"


    I may be wrong but I don't believe the speakers seat is contested at general elections.

  • Comment number 42.

    What a spectacular return to form for our MP's.

    They get humiliated by expenses, humbled at an election and spend weeks moping around, grovelling, apologising, promising to work harder, to "listen and learn" and to represent the public.

    Then what happens - as soon as the doors of the commons are closed, they return to a grand display of gossip, navel-gasing, vendettas and party politics.

    And then if they elect Beckett, we'll have a speaker, elected to clean up expenses, who was caught with her hand in the sweetie jar herself. You would have thought a squeaky clean expenses history would be the very first qualification for the job. But of course, thats hardly the MP's priority...

  • Comment number 43.

    Breaking News: Speaker Ballot Paper is released:

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 44.

    The trouble with choosing Beckett is that she would be used as another means of beating up the Labour party. The press would be all over her as soon as she was in place.

    None of the candidates particularly inspires me but Widdy would be great fun being equally unpopular on all sides and might shake things up a bit, especially if she is leaving at the next election.

  • Comment number 45.

    Too be truly independant, unbiased, and without a vested interest, surely the speaker should not belong to any party, and probably not even be an MP.

    Why can't it be given to someone who has no ties??

  • Comment number 46.

    I may be wrong but I don't believe the speakers seat is contested at general elections.

    I think that's merely a convention between the UK parties. Didn't the SNP stand in Michael Martin's constituency last time?

  • Comment number 47.

    The speaker is meant to be selected from different party each time - this tradition continued for hundreds of years until Nu Lab selected for the first time a second speaker from the same party. This means that the impartiality of the speaker is no longer guaranteed.

    Shame on all of them for not insisting on upholding tradition.

    IMHO Ann Widdicombe is the only person on the list with the integrity to be the speaker of the house.

  • Comment number 48.

    The Labour MP, Tom Harris has published the ballot paper on his blog, you can see it here:

  • Comment number 49.

    You would have thought that for the speaker to have any moral authority they would have to be completely untainted by the expenses row. They may then be able to speak to their colleagues and to the public on behalf of those same colleagues with some degree of integrity.

    By even getting on the candidate list these MPs (and their supporters) have failed completely to understand the depth of feeling in the country.

  • Comment number 50.

    The election of a replacement Speaker presented elected politicians with a golden opportunity to demonstrate that they have listened to the electorate's outraged protests and are committed to reforming our discredited parliamentary system. And what have they done with this golden opportunity? They've used it to show their contempt for the electorate by changing nothing and continuing as before.

    I now realise that the expression "playing politics" means that MPs treat politics as just a game and Parliament as little more than a convenient schoolyard in which to play it.

  • Comment number 51.

    Widdecombe overseeing the Commons?

    Virgin on the ridiculous.

  • Comment number 52.

    #41 StrictlyPickled

    Not strictly true, Strictly!

    The other main parties let the Speaker's constituency go uncontested but that does not stop other, smaller parties standing their candidates.

    If Beckett gets the job - and she will - anyone care to stand as a Free Democrat against her? At the 2005 GE, her majority was not particularly healthy. Much as I hate saying it, how about it Ms Rantzen?

  • Comment number 53.

    Nick says that the next Speaker is likely to be judged by the public by whether they speak up for those who send MPs to Parliament and how they stand up to the powerful on their behalf.

    Why should the constituents of an MP who becomes the Speaker be effectively disenfranchised?

    Logically, the next Speaker should ideally NOT be an MP but somebody from outside of the political system i.e. one of us.

    I hope that an English Parliament, which should be established within the next few years, will wipe away all of the current nonsense, which includes having an MP as the Speaker.

  • Comment number 54.

    Beckett speaking to to Commons?

    Klebb to maniacs.

  • Comment number 55.

    Absurd, frankly absurd, the whole thing, why bother voting for a speaker when the system itself is broken.

    We're in a position where we're supposedly being lead by an unelected PM although that appears questionable (due to the presence of the Lord of all he surveys Mandelson and a recently departed Prime Minster plus cronies).

    The House of Lords is an abherration and the fact that the executive house so much power with so little a voter majority is ridiculous.

    Rather than party leaders distributing 'reading lists' for the summer, they should simply buy their MPs a basic guide to democracy so they can see how far from it we are.

  • Comment number 56.

    36. At 1:17pm on 22 Jun 2009, SurfandTurf wrote:
    Could i suggest you look at another bbc area called Have Your Say. There is one clear frontrunner being called for time and time again- ANNE WIDDECOMBE.
    And why did you omit Anne Widdecombe (the peoples clear choice) from your article altogether?


    I suspect he omitted Anne Widdecombe because she is not a candidate. As are neither Ann Widecombe, Ann Widdicomb, Ann Weddecombe or many of the other ladies the HYS glitteraty seem to support for the post.

    Perhaps some of these would be a better choice than Ann Widdecombe MP, who is only standing for speaker. The reforms needed will take longer and need to be followed through which she cannot do if she stands down at the next election. Whoever wins needs to be in a postion of neutralisty with both main parties and this leaves Alan Beith who cannot be seen to be on-side with either main party before or after the next election.

  • Comment number 57.

    Post 41 & 46 the accepted practice is that the two other leading parties do not put up a candidate against the speaker.

    That does not stop any of the other smaller parties or an independent candidate, as I believe 41 is alluding to, standing against the speaker. This is shown by the votes for Michael Martin & others at the 2005 General Election.

    Perhaps Miss Rantzen or Miss Lumley could be persuaded to stand in Derby South if Margaret Beckett gets in as speaker.

  • Comment number 58.

    It seems from media reports today that Labour whips are pushing Beckett - the woman who was booed on Question Time. As I said on it might not be the Cabinet pushing it (that really would look bad) but the second layer of Government. And this means that there will be a danger of a really partisan candidate for the Speaker's chair. And who could be more partisan than an ex-minister, ex-secretary of state and ex-Labour leader (albeit a stand in)? Beckett would be an awful choice for the independence of Parliament.

  • Comment number 59.

    Brown hasnt got one thing right in 12 years so why would he start now !
    If this lot are the best British politics can offer then Britain is further down the pan than we thought. Is the old TV star, Mr Edd available ?

  • Comment number 60.

    Interesting how overwhelming the feeling is here a) against Margaret Beckett and b) for Ann Widdecombe. Unless this page has been hijacked by pro-Ann MPs it does give some indication of what the public's choice would be (if asked). The very few comments I've heard from friends on this subject also point to Ann Widdecombe being at least the best of a bad bunch. It will be just as interesting to see whether the Commons agrees. Do MPs read these pages I wonder?

  • Comment number 61.

    No coverage of this afternoon's speeches on BBC 1 or 2. None either on Radio. Wimbledon is clearly more important than the election of a new speaker.

  • Comment number 62.

    The new speaker should be a member of the general public, or one masquerading as such.
    (A robotic arm silently glides from the control console and timidly points in the direction of Zim)

    MPs have proven they cannot be trusted to be masters of their own destinies, nor ours.

    They need a Speaker with an iron will, to rule over them like a god.
    They need a speaker, not to spoil them, one who will never spare the rod.
    To crack the whip, theres one rational choice, Vote Invader-ZIM.
    When theres something fishy in parliament, Zim will reel them in.

  • Comment number 63.

    Beckett only wants the job so she has a safe seat at the next election. The crafty woman knows she would'nt elected any other way and I don't think The Speakers Job should go to such a person.

  • Comment number 64.

    Widders for Woolsack, surely? She is the only one with low claims, common sense, AND a voice like thunder... truly matronly in a fun sort of way... she would have my vote!

  • Comment number 65.

    This is a smokescreen in the hope we forget about expences I wont.

  • Comment number 66.

    I'm sick of all this - a 'people's speaker'? Don't make us laugh.

    Expenses will be overseen by an independant body so the new speaker can do little about them.

    The real job is to give the power back to the Commons. Beckett has already rejected the reforms needed to do this and hold the executive to account.

    Asking the PM to answer at least one question each Parliamentary term would also be a bonus. Can you imagine Beckett doing that?

    Another shoe-in from the Labour whips office? Roll on next June and we can vote out the lot of them.

  • Comment number 67.

    The most constructive thing I've read about this whole thing was by Roy Hattersley in today's Times. He argues that whoever is Speaker should be far more active in controlling the conduct of debates, especially at PMQs (which after all is all most of us ever actually watch). His rather simple suggestion is that (in accordance with Commons rules) only questions should be asked at Prime Minister's Questions. Sounds obvious, but when was the last time you heard a straightforward question being asked? Almost invariably it becomes a circus-like event with people standing up either to offer praise to the PM (fed to them by the whips) or to make lengthy speeches with little or no actual question at the end. Hattersley recalls a time when anyone attempting such a thing would be told to shut up. Of the candidates, Widdecombe is the one I can best imagine filling such a role

  • Comment number 68.

    Problem solved!


    Drop the usual "order, order" and replace with a spray of 'Da oozie' acros the ceiling of parliment - that will shut any rowdy MP's up.

    Drop the waffly 'Right Honourable member' and replace with


    He would be able to stay real to the people with lines like

    "I'm not into politics. I'm into survival"

    When resolving the excess expenses claimed he can simply say


    and the call for reccess can be simply replaced with

    "I'LL BE BACK"

    Perhaps a raging loony with a sub-machine gun who is prepared to destroy everything to get his point across is just the ticket required to keep those MP's in line.

    I'd like to see the first person to step out of line and get their head blown off!

    The simplest solutions are often the best - or maybe I'm getting confused between a rough cut hero and a middle aged overweight man who is Governer in California....

  • Comment number 69.

    Margaret Beckett!!!

    This is the same person who thinks the problem with MP's expenses is that the public 'don't understand' ???

    This is the same person who thinks MP's can't do their jobs without spending £10,000 on hanging baskets!

  • Comment number 70.

    #23 wild santaga3

    "I have never agreed with Ken Livingstone's politics, but I did see him on the Bakerloo line in the mornings"

    ...and he was replaced as mayor of London because of sleaze (foreign trips to Venezuala I believe)
    Which goes to show that you can fool ALL OF THE PEOPLE SOME OF THE TIME - especially when the ONLY LOCAL NEWSPAPER produces story after story accusing the encumbant of sleaze purely for their own political gain.

    Politics is a dirty game, there are no morals in it. How can there be when the whole thing is controlled by a small number of media moguls.

  • Comment number 71.

    Our MPs have shown themselves to be beyond redemption: it is time to suspend parliament for a period of years, as my namesake once did. Only when would-be politicians can shown themselves fit to govern should we revert to the norm of democracy. But until that point, Your Majesty, kindly dispense with this House of Fools.

  • Comment number 72.

    Ann Wimbledon for Speaker!

  • Comment number 73.

    The next Speaker is likely to be judged by the public by whether they speak up for those who send MPs to Parliament and how they stand up to the powerful on their behalf.

    Well said Nick.

    Which is why all that you had to report concerning the voting machinations in Parliament for the position of Speaker is such a disgrace. I hope your analysis is incorrect but I fear given the expenses and other revelations recently in the public domain that you are spot on.

    Time to rid ourselves of this disgraceful collection of self serving law-makers and elect a new Parliament but that won't happen for two reasons:

    1) Brown wants to cling onto power in the hope something turns up
    2) Mandelson wants to keep Brown in power until after the Irish referendum and so avoid any chance of a UK referendum on the Constitution (sorry, Treaty).

  • Comment number 74.

    #59 TV's Mr Edd for Speaker? I think even Mr Blobby would be a better choice than the candidate currently being quoted as favourite to succeed Speaker Martin.

    Maybe that suggestion sounds ridiculous, but it's entirely in keeping with the flippant attitude MPs seem to have adopted towards the serious job we elected them to do. It's obvious that the electorate's outrage and contempt have done nothing to change this attitude, so maybe ridicule will do the trick. Or are they so thick-skinned that even this will have no effect?

  • Comment number 75.

    It's amazing how many MPs are absolutely sure they can't decide for the right reasons.

    1. There is no blame in choosing someone who MIGHT slip up. Only in choosing someone it is CLEAR will slip up.
    2. The Speaker must be apolitical, hence Party tribalism is indicating immaturity amongst our MPs. We should note that come election time........
    3. The will of the People is for reform. Hence choosing a blocker should be noted at election time. Is this the reason for a secret ballot? We would all like to oust MPs who choose to continue the status quo.......

    I am amazed that MPs do not consider it possible to construct arguments to counter strong emotions: isn't that supposed to be an MP's core competence?

    This does not appear to be shaping up well.

    But it might all be media hype I guess.......

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 77.

    It was, in my view, a ridiculous witch hunt against Michael Martin which has brought us to this point. No human being is perfect and the attacks on the speaker were, in my view, an attempt to deflect attention from the allowances and expenses issues. It didn't work. What is supposed to have remedied the situation has created another problem.
    One or two points are clear, though. The former speaker has left his post with dignity. Historically the resignation of the speaker had not occurred since the upheavals of the English Civil War and the way in which Michael Martin was attacked and resigned has set a president. As Nick has pointed out above, so much will be expected from him or her, it will be a role impossible to fill.
    I think that if the new speaker falls short of expectations, which is quite likely, the whole machinery of attacks, against him or her, in parliament and press, can be re-engineered and the whole sorry story will be repeated.
    Anyone who witnessed the attacks on the speaker in the house of commons must have seen that it looked like an attack of relatively young (and angry) MPs against an older man, who was clearly distressed by the whole procedure. It did not look good from any angle. We reap what we sow!

  • Comment number 78.

    If Beckett is to become Speaker, please, please can we have an anti-sleaze independent candidate standing against her at the next general election?

    It would be worth something to see that smug smirk wiped off her face as the election result was called out.

    It really wouldn't be that difficult. In 2005, Beckett polled a tad under 20,000 at the last election and the Tory and Liberal candidates (who by convention wouldn't stand next time) polled 22,000 between them. Many of those who voted Labour won't do so again and who would switch from being against Beckett in 2005 to being for her next time around?

    How about a candidate from the "Buy your own Hanging Baskets" party?

  • Comment number 79.

    Tony Blair for speaker - just write his name in on the ballott paper. He got the country into this mess. He want the Iran enquiry to be held in secret so no blame can be attached.

    Make him speaker and responsible for reforming the whole lot at least he would have to stand aside as a possible European President. It would be worth having him as speaker to ensure that.

  • Comment number 80.

    Its obviously going to be Beckett--GB's placeman and she is disliked by the public viz. Question Time so the Tories will vote for her as a proxy to inccrease Brown's unpopularity. She didn't resign from the Cabinet--Brown promised her this job--how far out of touch is Brown???

  • Comment number 81.

    #71 EdwinCromwell -

    "It is time to suspend parliament for a period of years, as my namesake once did. Only when would-be politicians can shown themselves fit to govern should we revert to the norm of democracy."

    Dear G*d in Heaven, I hope (And pray) that you're joking . . .

    The reputation of Westminster democracy is besmirched so your solution is . . . to abandon democracy utterly and completely. Brilliant! Let's cut out all the tedious, faffing around and go straight for a dictatorship.

    So who would rule during this 'period of years' while Parliament's suspended? Gordon Brown, presumably . . .

    You should be careful what you wish for . . .

  • Comment number 82.

    Having heard Beckett, Young and Widdecombe my feeling so far is that Beckett is highly unlikely to bring about significant change in the short-term which is when it is needed. Young made a very strong speech and would be a good long term choice. But Widdecombe offers something totally different: an express promise to act as Speaker for only one year but with the aim of bringing about as much reform as possible with a view to reconnecting with the public before handing over to someone else. This is a pretty radical approach but would impress many people in the country I think

  • Comment number 83.

    John Bercow seems to think this is all a bit of a joke and that he's giving a stand up routine. He seems to think a tremendous amount of himself and sounds incredibly annoying. Not one to "connect" with "the people" I think

  • Comment number 84.

    # 77 newtactic
    Which planet have you been on ? He was the worst speaker we have ever had.
    He didnt do the job ! In any other walk of life our present politicians wouldnt last five minutes (which is why they have NEVER had a proper job)

    Are you suggesting we feel sorry for the new speaker ? It isnt supposed to be an easy job.
    "HE" will find it impossible Mmmmmmm ! Mr Robinson know something we dont ?

  • Comment number 85.

    #68, brilliant. I'd go one further and try to draft Chuck Norris, he'd sort it out...

    But seriously i cant see why electing one of the people who are directly responisble for this as being any kind of clean break, and while there is a couple of the candidates (like Widdiecome) who are less guilty than the others (ie Beckett) they are all part of the broken system.

    I think someone from the outside would be much preferable to trusting one of the vipers to sort out the nest.

    Tricky to think of realistic examples of who could be brought in but i reckon someone like David Dimbleby or Martin Bell would do a better job than most of the candidates.

    Failing that anyone but Beckett. Anyone.

  • Comment number 86.

    77 newtactic.
    You imply that Speaker Martin was a good, fair, balanced and unbiased speaker. Did you ever watch PMQ's, did you ever hear the Speaker ask the PM to answer a question put to him? Presumably you were happy that the Speaker tried everything possible to stop the publication of MP's expenses running up a huge legal bill in the process, which the tax payer paid.
    I wish I could charge up taxis for my wife to go shopping and take her on numerous business trips abroad to exotic locations for so called meetings, all at our expense. I wish I could retire on such a massive gold plated pension that we have no choice but to pay for.
    But I don't and I resent the fact that Nu Labour broke with tradition and appointed one of 'their own' instead of electing an opposition MP. The thought that yet another labour MP could become Speaker today would just prove how out of touch Chairman Brown and Co are with the public. Martin had to go and the only possible alternative is Ann Widdicombe who will stand down at the GE, by which time she may well have sorted out the sordid mess called the House of Commons.

  • Comment number 87.

    Despite claims to the contrary, this has all the hallmarks of a shoe-in for Beckett.

    This messy game of party political one upmanship will do nothing to restore battered public confidence. MPs are up to their old tricks, trying to juggle their favourite into the top job, treating the public and parliament with contempt.

    Unless there's a massive change of heart and conscience, the result will only inflame the public mood as voters treat it with the contempt and cynicism the whole squalid mess deserves.

    I just hope MPs see sense.

    How depressing that MPs cannot seize this opportunity to show the public they understand that need for change. How depressing that MPs still do not realise that the Commons does not exist to serve their own greedy self-serving interest?

  • Comment number 88.

    "It is time to suspend parliament for a period of years, as my namesake once did. Only when would-be politicians can shown themselves fit to govern should we revert to the norm of democracy."

    Bandages_For_Konjic wrote:

    "Dear G*d in Heaven, I hope (And pray) that you're joking . . .

    The reputation of Westminster democracy is besmirched so your solution is . . . to abandon democracy utterly and completely. Brilliant! Let's cut out all the tedious, faffing around and go straight for a dictatorship.

    So who would rule during this 'period of years' while Parliament's suspended? Gordon Brown, presumably . . ."

    Read before you write: my argument is to suspend the normal democratic process for some years, not indefinitely. Once the political class has shown itself fit to govern, we can then revert to the norm of democracy.
    Until that point, we must be ruled in name by our Sovereign, and in practice by our Civil Service; aided where required -- and it may be -- by the police and military. A dictatorship if you will; but one which, like that of Cromwell long ago, would well serve this land -- and democracy too, in the long run.

  • Comment number 89.

    This realy is dangerous territory for our stupid MP's, if they elect Beckett an ex Labour leader then people will just view the whole institution as moribund if they do not already.

    One thing that has come from this ZaNuLabour term is that we can get a better understanding of how the people of Iran and Zimbabwe feel.


    There is only one way of fixing this and it starts with a immediate election.

  • Comment number 90.

    I've been thinking, I put in my last post (hurried, because I was cooking at the time) that we would "set a president". No, indeed, I do not think we want one of those, we nearly had one in Blair. What I meant to say, was the attacks on Michael Martin from politicians and press had set a precedent. And this, in my view, has created a new problem for parliament.
    But, another precedent was set when police searched the rooms of an MP. As with many other things, this was done in a hurry and without proper procedure. Because it was done under Michael Martin's speaker-ship and it was a Conservative MP who was arrested and whose rooms were searched, it was no surprise that it was a Conservative MP who led the attack on the speaker, joined enthusiastically (and I think regrettably) by other MPs from other parties.
    Whilst the ceremony and dress associated with the role of speaker may seem to many to be archaic, I suggest the trappings of the speaker are immaterial. The role of speaker must be as an arbiter and referee. It is to be hoped that whoever takes on the office and those who remain in parliament until the next election will attempt to move away from the "yah boo sucks" style (often reflected in this newslog) and get back to some intelligent informed debate on the main issues of our time.

  • Comment number 91.


    It's the 'Return of the Unpronounceables' with Anne Widdica.. Widdico.. Widdecue.. Whiddlecome....that guy who was on 'Have I Got News For You'.

  • Comment number 92.

    'Time to rid ourselves of this disgraceful collection of self serving law-makers and elect a new Parliament'

    - A bit of a generalisation here. They are not all self-serving. There are some very good MPs, and most are decent. A small minority are corrupt and at least we now know about them.

    -And who do you think will be elected at the next election? And do you think they will serve us all?

    Personally I think we need to reform our electoral system so our votes actually count and put an end of the nonsense of safe seats under First Past The Post where nobody's vote really counts. And it means most MPs from this Parliament will make up the next one. I'll back any speaker who will prioritise reform.

  • Comment number 93.

    I obviously need to reply to my critics (yet again!)
    I was not making a comment on whether or not the speaker deserved to go. I am trying to make the point that the way he was removed was needlessly unpleasant and has set a precedent for the future, which will make the position of speaker all the more exacting.
    I am clearly poor at getting my points over, just as well I have no ambitions to be an MP!

  • Comment number 94.

    93 newtactic. Thank you. A shame you have no ambitions to be an MP as at least you can admit that you can't get your points over.

  • Comment number 95.

    I watched all the speeches - thank goodness for a TV card in my PC that I was able to record and them play back. I liked the Widdecombe, Lord and Dhanda speeches the best.

    For me Dhanda was the only one that seemed to really understand the impact that recent events have had on the population. Unless he had an invisible Autocue, he was also one of the few that spoke without notes. However his 'pitch' maybe just too radical for most members of the house.

    It will be interesting to see who gets into the next round. Still disappointed that Vince Cable did not stand.

  • Comment number 96.


    #41 StrictlyPickled

    Not strictly true, Strictly!

    The other main parties let the Speaker's constituency go uncontested but that does not stop other, smaller parties standing their candidates.

    If Beckett gets the job - and she will - anyone care to stand as a Free Democrat against her? At the 2005 GE, her majority was not particularly healthy. Much as I hate saying it, how about it Ms Rantzen?


    Thanks for the clarification, I wasn't 100% certain.

    I'm delighted to be proven wrong, and if Margaret Beckett becomes speaker then I hope such a candidate comes forward.

  • Comment number 97.

    Watching these nuggets trying to organise themselves is farcical. Why can't we choose who we would like to keep an eye on these double dealing reprobates?

  • Comment number 98.

    For Labour MPs to vote for Beckett would be for Turkeys to vote for Christmas!

    The choice is pretty dismal.

    We need complete change in that place and that can only be achieved by a GE.

  • Comment number 99.

    "HRH used that power ... to warn us about the threat to the environment."

    What threat? Your phrase implies there IS a threat. No proof ...

    " ... to warn us about what he believes is the threat to the environment' please.

  • Comment number 100.

    Tories "anyone but Bercow! (objectionable)", Labour "anyone but Beckett! (incompetent)".
    MP's are probably right in feeling that neither will make a competent Speaker.
    Clearly time for them to agree to vote for someone else.


Page 1 of 2

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.