Who, then, possesses the necessary theatrical skill, integrity and ferocity in defence of the rights of the people's representatives? Tony Benn would be a good Speaker, strong on the historical roots of British democracy and healthily disrespectful of the monarchy, but he carries too much ideology in his shoulder bag. Andrew Mackinlay understands Parliament's role of checking the executive, though perhaps he should do the checking himself rather than front the show.
But if MPs want to re-assert Parliament's integrity, they should not elect as Speaker a member of the governing party.
Most of the Conservative names touted are colourless deadbeats. Kenneth Clarke is not, but the job would bore him. Peter Brooke has made some very funny speeches, but that hardly qualifies him. Perhaps, then, it should be a Liberal Democrat. Robert Maclennan is a fine constitutionalist but too desiccated. Alan Beith is the Lib Dems' best: witty, sharp - but then, hardly material for a soap-operatic people's hero.
There is only one real candidate to step into Betty's buckles and gaiters, though the traditional garb may need some modification: the man in the white suit, the Independent member for Tatton, Martin Bell.Reuse content