There are two myths propagated about the Speakership of the House of Commons.

One is that there is a convention that it alternates between Conservative and Labour MPs. This is patently not correct, since there were in fact four Conservative MP in a row who served as Speaker between 1928 and 1965.

Secondly, there are those who say that convention states that the Speaker always comes from the benches of the governing party. This was the case for several hundred years – until 1992 when the convention was broken on the election of Labour’s Betty Boothroyd.

By modern standards, Speaker Martin has already had a good innings after eight years in the post; the last of his predecessors to serve more than a decade was Edward Fitzroy, who died in office during World War II.

So after a weekend of further speculation about the future of the post’s current incumbent – including a BBC survey
in which a significant proportion of MPs questioned declared themselves
to have lost confidence in Michael Martin – thoughts are turning to the
identity of the person who should succeed him, whenever that may be.

On the timing front, I would venture that the sooner a new Speaker can be chosen, the better. By its very nature, the role is supposed to be held by a unifying figure who can command respect across the chamber – this is clearly no longer the case with MPs of all political hues now questioning Speaker Martin’s judgements.

So who should take over? From the Labour side, names being talked about include Wales Secretary, Paul Murphy, and one of the current Deputy Speakers, Sylvia Heal. Then there are those who favour ex-Lib Dem leader, Sir Menzies Campbell.

But there is also a wealth of potential candidates from the Conservative benches. Several knights of the shires have long fancied the role, including Sir George Young, Sir Patrick Cormack and Sir Nicholas Winterton.

There are of course also two Conservative Deputy Speakers in Sir Alan Haslehurst and Sir Michael Lord, of whom the former won many plaudits when he temporarily deputised for Speaker Martin on a full-time basis during a bout of ill health.

And the other Tory name increasingly being talked about on all sides of the House is John Bercow, the MP for Buckingham. Whilst his political journey may have lost him some friends on the Tory benches, it has also gained him widespread respect across the Commons and would in my mind be the ideal choice.

Jonathan Isaby

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