Margaret Beckett joins Speaker race
The battle for the Commons Speakership was hotting up tonight as former Cabinet minister Margaret Beckett threw her hat into the ring.
Mrs Beckett, who was sacked from the Government in Prime Minister Gordon Brown's reshuffle last week, said she wanted to help Parliament face its "very considerable problems".
"I will be sending a letter round to MPs asking for support," she added.
The surprise move by a political heavyweight comes with less than a fortnight to go before the crunch Commons vote to decide Michael Martin's successor.
Mrs Beckett said: "I think at the moment we have got very considerable problems in Parliament. We have got to make changes.
"After the next election, if we have a more finely balanced chamber than we have had in the recent past, it will be a very different ball game.
"I hope I can help us deal with that."
Asked if controversy over her expenses claims for hanging baskets and pot plants would damage her prospects, the recently-departed housing minister replied: "Only time will tell."
Ex-minister Parmjit Dhanda and Tory Sir Michael Lord also added their names to those vying for the powerful post today.
Mrs Beckett was quickly installed as the 4/1 second favourite by bookies after her announcement.
However, left-leaning Conservative backbencher John Bercow was looking increasingly difficult to beat amid reports that senior Labour figures are ready to back him.
The Buckingham MP's chances were seen as being further boosted this week when rival Frank Field joined the unsuccessful rebellion against Gordon Brown, angering many in his own party.
Mr Field and Mrs Beckett may also suffer because tradition suggests it is the turn of an opposition party after Labour provided the past two Speakers.
Other front-runners to take the chair include Tory Sir George Young and Liberal Democrat Sir Alan Beith.
A free vote will be held on 22 June to decide the winner.
In an email circulated to MPs, Mr Dhanda, a 37-year-old father of two, admitted that he was not "an obvious choice".
But he went on: "It's too late for evolution and time for us to be brave.
"I believe that if we firmly shift the pendulum of power back to the public they are more likely to put their trust in us again.
"To put these changes in place we will need a Speaker who is comfortable in, and able to communicate with modern Britain."
Sir Michael Lord, currently a Deputy Speaker, said: "I have got strong support, and I am very serious about the contest."
The Hansard Society is organising a hustings event for Monday, with Mrs Beckett now likely to attend.
Other candidates set to put their case include Sir Patrick Cormack, Sir Alan Haselhurst and Richard Shepherd.
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 2 Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered
- 3 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 4 Now we know whose fault it is if you end up being murdered in Thailand
- 5 35,000 walrus gather ashore on north-west Alaska beach 'for a rest'
Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
Car tax disc changes: Five facts you never knew about your (almost obsolete) tax disc
The Aral Sea: Nasa pictures show how what was once the fourth largest lake in the world has become almost completely dry
Brad Pitt, on the moment he completely lost his temper with Clint Eastwood's son
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Benefits 'smart cards' plan revealed by Iain Duncan Smith to stop claimants spending welfare money on alcohol
- < Previous
- Next >
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...
£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...
Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...