Time for the Virgin Speaker?


Speaker Martin is, rightly, going to be out before the Election and the only question now is how and when.

Michael Martin is not entirely to blame for the current crisis but his statement today is too little far, far, too late. He has to go because he’s more part of the problem than the solution.

The real issue now is – who next as Speaker?

My vote would go to Anne Widdecombe. Any of you who know my political history (ex-Trotskyist radical) may be just a trifle surprised.

What is needed from a new Speaker?

Impeccable moral credentials – Ms Widdecombe  certainly has those, and even though I don’t agree with some of her (Catholic) moral principles I respect her steadfast defence of them. Whatever else you think of her, you can’t imagine her being equivocal about the sort of rule bending which has become endemic in Westminster.

Fearless ability to stand up to the powers that be in defence of what is right – this is the woman who denounced her boss as Home Secretary Michael Howard as “having something of the night about him” after his disgraceful treatment of Prison’s chief Derek Lewis. (for my analysis of that episode see The Prison Service: A Framework of Irresponsibility).

Being in touch – this is the only person who, to my knowledge, on being appointed Prison’s Minister committed to visit every single prison in England and Wales for which she had assumed responsibility and did so. That is serious commitment and was done without any fanfare or obvious political advantage – but because she thought it was the right thing to do if you assumed accountability for something.

She would not be the first woman Speaker – Betty Boothroyd  already claimed that crown. But she was the Tiller-Girl Speaker – we have had the Virgin Queen, what we need now is the Virgin Speaker. Go for it Anne.

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About Colin Talbot

Professor of Government at the University of Manchester, England.
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