What can't they do? Three Labour speakers in a row? That's too daring surely. But they are talking about an "interim speaker" who will stand down from Parliament at the next election. Tony Wright, chair of the Public Administration Committee, is the only obvious Labour candidate. He's likeable and inquisitive but in committee often fails to deliver the knock-out blow.
Ken Clarke would make a terrific interim. Great presence. Popular, interesting, honest – he'd put any amount of reform through. And because he'd have to turn up every day he would definitely resign at the next election. Jack Straw? He couldn't afford to fail. And he may have other ambitions in mind.
Who else? The bookies' favourite is George Young. Upright, intelligent, aloof, it would only be a small trip to ascend into the upper atmosphere beyond party politics. An Etonian. Can we have Etonians as Speaker, Prime Minister and Mayor of London? It doesn't bother me but then I'm not class conscious like that.
There are the deputy speakers. Sylvia Heald is a bit insipid, Michael Lord a bit dim and Sir Alan Hazelhurst a bit knocked about by the £140,000 he claimed. A shame, as he's well-tailored for the job. Brisk, amused and with Fred Astaire legs, he's a rightful successor to Betty Boothroyd.
David Davis? He'd be a vigorous reformer. He could stand up for Parliament against the executive (especially a Cameron one). He has the decency and brains for it. But he'd be bored. Alas, he really doesn't want to do it.
Frank Field. One of the most positive presences in Parliament, with a well-developed instinct for the failures of government. But has he the muscle and knuckle to take on the full establishment?
Ann Widdecombe, the minx, is flirting with her electorate. She says No, but maybe she means Yes. Independent, recognisable, with a voice like a flock of crows – she'd be a great adornment to the constitution.
Alan Milburn? Probably too much personality. And there'd be the problem of getting the 12 supporters.
Liberal Democrats. It's their turn, but when did fairness matter? Ming has rather fallen out of the running after one poor performance on Question Time (it's a brutal business, this). Alan Beith? Why not? Or David Heath. He's very recognisable, very constitutional and well endowed with character and personality.
Tory John Bercow. Will his campaign pay off? He's been chastising Tories in Public Bill committees and sucking up to Labour in every Business Questions for the last five years. As the most unpopular Tory he may attract nihilistic Labour votes. Even so, no chance.Reuse content