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Rolling blog on the election of a new Speaker

3.37pm Alan Williams explains the technicalities of how the vote will take place. He hopes that the result of the first ballot will come an hour after the close of the ballot - which will take place between 3.39pm and 4.09pm.

Picture 13.31pm Parmjit Dhanda is the last to address the House. He asks if all MPs really "get it" ie understand the level of crisis and public anger in the country about MPs' behaviour. He says the election of BNP MEPs sends a strong message about the need for re-engagement with voters by MPs. Do the other candidates speak the language of modern Britain, he wonders? He speaks of the need for Parliament needs to give more power away to local people and communities; and he calls for internet polls to decide which topics should be debated in Parliament; and for the Commons to hold debates in towns and cities across the country.

Picture 23.25pm Sir Alan Haselhurst makes his pitch. He talks about his experience, and his desire for brevity in speeches and answers to questions. He wants debates to be able to be more topical and for the Speaker to have more discretion in advancing reforms to procedures. The House must have more say over the business it discusses; more power for private members to move motions which are debated and voted on. He talks of the hurt felt by MPs over the expenses issue and says he would seek to engage with Sir Christopher Kelly on the issue.

Picture 23.17pm Sir Patrick Cormack rises to "offer his services" after 39 years in the House. He speaks of his love for parliamentary democracy and recalls how those on the other side of the Iron Curtain use to look up to the British House of Commons and how he wants that to be the case again. He recalls the assertion of independence of the Commons by Speaker Lenthall. He says he would be tough on minsters who "spill the beans" to the media before making statements to the House. He makes an attempt to appeal to the Labour benches by reminding the House of his opposition to the poll tax.

Picture 23.08pm Sir Michael Lord rises to make what he says is the most important speech of his life.The next Speaker must understand the frustrations and the increasing disillusionment among backbenchers and be strong and experienced enough to stand up to the Government and know how the House works. He desribes himself as a reluctant politician but an enthusiastic parliamentarian.

Picture 13.03pm Richard Shepherd is on now. He has always believed in opening things up, and freedom of information and that is it the path to redemption in the wake of the expenses scandals. It's a time for action, not rhetoric. Parliament has lost control of standing orders, the government has far too much power over Parliament and backbenchers and it must now be reclaimed. He wants to also fight a contested election in his seat at the next election to get a new mandate from his constituents.

Picture 1 2.54pm John Bercow gets up to speak. He begins by impersonating a long-standing colleague who told him that he was "not too young" but "far too young". He recalls how two younger Speakers went on to become Prime Minister in centuries past - not something he is in danger of doing, he says. He want to "reassert the values of this great institution" in a 21st Century context. He boasts the support of MPs from six parties in the House and right and left-leaning independents. He wants to be a speaker and a listener and makes no apology for changing his position on certain issues over the years, but that his personal politics would rightly be cast aside in the chair. He says he is the "clean break candidate".

2.50pm Alan Beith, the long-serving Lib Dem rises to address the House. Lots of murmurs of support when he talks about taking some power away from the Government in terms of timetabling business. The Speaker must not be a barrier to reform and must be accepted by those whose preferred candidate is not elected.

Picture 12.42pm Ann Widdecombe says she is unique... because she is standing as in interim Speaker. She says she has come to the view that she fits the bill as someone the public know and trust... as a "vulgar tribune" and wants the new Speaker to be more visible outside the House and to rebalance power from the executive to backbenchers. She amuses the Hosue by recalling an alliance she once forged with Dennis Skinner in favour of supporting backbench rights in Parliament. She gets many murmurs of her support when she says that reforms on expenses etc must not deter those of modest means from standing tor Parliament. Whoever wins must have brought support on all sides, she says.

Picture 42.37pm Sir George Young rises to stake his claim. He raises a laugh by saying he has always been "in the Conservative Party, not run by the Conservative Party". He says that he wants to see the terms of trade tilted from the executive to Parliament and continues to set out the ideas he has for change in a confident manner which makes Margaret Beckett's pitch look weak.

Picture 22.30pm Father of the House Alan Williams presides over proceedings as Margaret Beckett is the first candidate to make her pitch. Tom Harris looks unmoved by her arguments. She talks about her long experience in Parliament and the need to remember the importance of backbenchers.


Ten candidates have been validly nominated to contested the election for a new Speaker this afternoon. The candidates will  each speak in turn from 2.30pm in the following order, which drawn by lots (hat tip Daniel Finkelstein) before voting begins:

1st - Margaret Beckett
2nd - Sir George Young
3rd - Ann Widdecombe
4th - Sir Alan Beith
5th - John Bercow
6th - Richard Shepherd
7th - Sir Michael Lord
8th - Sir Patrick Cormack
9th - Sir Alan Haselhurst
10th - Parmjit Dhanda 

Race for Speaker's Chair graphicIn each round of voting - conducted through a secret ballot, MPs will vote for one candidate only. If a candidate secures 50% of the vote, they are elected. If no-one has won 50% of the vote, then the bottom candidate and any other candidate with less than 5% of the vote automatically drops out - as can any other candidates wishing to do so.

A second vote is then held, and so on, until one candidate wins 50% of the votes cast.

There will be a rolling blog here during the course of the afternoon.

Jonathan Isaby


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