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Monday, June 22, 2009 

Dragged kicking and screaming.

A lot of nonsense has been written and spoken, not least by the candidates for the job themselves, about just how big a role the speaker of the Commons can have in reforming parliament. The worst candidate, by a huge margin, was easily Margaret Beckett, the establishment while not resembling the standard establishment figure. No longer with a government job to perform abysmally in, it was a frightening prospect that she'd be the one to be calling the shots, and that she didn't even bother to make even the slightest noises about change was a sign that she might perhaps just wing it.

As it turned out, the original predictions that John Bercow would walk it came true. To my mind, and this may well cause some surprise, the best candidate was Ann Widdecombe. Ignore her politics, and instead you had someone who clearly is as tough as old boots and could have shaken things up slightly. More to the point, she was only to be an interim candidate, and so if she turned out be useless or hopelessly biased, she'd be gone by next year anyway. Bercow was though however the second best alternative, and that he so coveted the job was not necessarily a downside. That he was so loathed by the Tories themselves, who seemed to imagine they had a divine right to control the chair, also helped, and just how grim they looked when he took the chair has to be one of the most satisfying sights in parliament for quite some time. It seems doubtful though that he will be any more partisan than Michael Martin was at his worst, and his prospectus to be speaker, while inevitably unlikely to be instituted in full, may well help with the reform that is needed. No one was going to be a panacea, but Bercow is hardly going to be the worst of all worlds.

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Tough as old boots maybe, but batty as a fruit cake as well.

Quite possibly true, but she wouldn't have lasted long which was half the attraction.

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