MPs criticise Betty Boothroyd for her 'hasty' decision to quit

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A Labour MP broke ranks yesterday by openly criticising Betty Boothroyd, the outgoing Speaker, for her decision to resign before her successor had been chosen.

A Labour MP broke ranks yesterday by openly criticising Betty Boothroyd, the outgoing Speaker, for her decision to resign before her successor had been chosen.

Rosemary McKenna, the MP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, said she was "very disappointed" in Miss Boothroyd, who officially steps down when MPs return to the Commons from their long summer break next month.

Ms McKenna told Radio 4's Today programme: "I was always very disappointed in Betty Boothroyd.

"There was a very strong feeling of unhappiness over her resignation, her speech, as well as the situation that she has left us in, whereby we don't have time to consider who will be the Speaker and we have created the situation which she could have avoided."

Ms McKenna's anger is shared by a growing number of MPs from all sides, who feel that Miss Boothroyd's sudden departure does not leave enough time to elect her successor. The vote is due on 23 October, the day the Commons returns from the summer recess, but backbenchers have demanded that the election is delayed to give candidates the chance to canvass.

Mrs McKenna's frustration was echoed by Gillian Shephard, a Conservative former cabinet minister. "It would have been possible for the Government to make a counter proposal to [Miss Boothroyd's decision]. She should have gone after the Queen's Speech. I just think the thing is being done with undue haste, but in a much more sinister manner, without due consideration of the importance to our democracy of the position of Speaker."

Peter Bradley, the Labour MP for The Wrekin, has already rallied the support of 85 cross- party MPs to call for proper elections and the issuing of manifestos to avoid the wrong candidate being elected. Mr Bradley said: "This is a turning point for the House of Commons. If we get the wrong candidate ... I think there is a risk of that Speaker, knowing that they achieved election in the way that they will, will have his or her powers and authorities significantly undermined."

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