George Young to stand for Speaker

Sir George Young, the Shadow Leader of the Commons, resigned from William Hague's frontbench team yesterday as he entered the already crowded race to become Speaker of the House of Commons.

Sir George Young, the Shadow Leader of the Commons, resigned from William Hague's frontbench team yesterday as he entered the already crowded race to become Speaker of the House of Commons.

Sir George, 59, is expected to emerge as one of the leading contenders for the job of succeeding Betty Boothroyd when MPs elect a new Speaker on 23 October. He is expected to attract support from MPs of all parties.

The MP for Hampshire North is the twelfth MP to signal an interest in the post and there are growing fears at Westminster that the election will be chaotic unless some of the runners stand down.

Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on foreign affairs, has told friends he is ready to enter the race and he is thought likely to enjoy the tacit support of Tony Blair.

Although some MPs say that they will not vote for a "Blair candidate," Mr Campbell - who would run as a "Commons moderniser" - could win the backing of many loyalist Labour MPs and several ministers.

Sir George will also run on a modernisers' ticket after calling for reform of Parliament, as shadow Leader of the Commons, to give MPs greater power to hold the Government to account.

Sir George, nicknamed "the bicycling baronet," served as a junior health and environment minister under Margaret Thatcher. He was later chosen as "Backbencher of the Year" for leading a campaign against the poll tax and returned to ministerial office under John Major.

Sir George told William Hague in his resignation letter: "I do not believe I can be a candidate whilst remaining a member of your Shadow Cabinet, so with some sadness I have decided to stand down."

While he recognised that other candidates' support, he was "sufficiently encouraged" by the response from MPs that he had decided to stand.

Mr Hague is not endorsing any candidate but made clear in his reply that he welcomed Sir George's move.

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