I heard this morning that there is a Whips’ stitch up to ensure Margaret Beckett becomes Speaker. I have no idea what the Labour whips are doing, but as it is a secret ballot they will not succeed in making their MPs vote for someone they don’t want. I do know what the Conservative whips are doing.
No whip has aproached me to recommend a candidate or urge me to vote for X. There has been no ring round. I have asked several Conservative whips how they will be voting, as I am trying to understand the election so I can tell you more about it. Each has even refused to tell me how they personally will vote, under orders from their office not to be seen to be influencing the election in any way.
Last week I told you why I would not be voting for three of the candidates. This morning I have decided that Michael Lord and Patrick Cormack are unlikely to receive my support, because I have to start eliminating more. I will attend the session to learn more of the other 5.
I find the endless public comment that one candidiate should be chosen because she is “clean” on expenses quite bizarre. All MPs went along with an expenses scheme which was too generous and too laxly administered. All made claims under it. No Speaker candidate stands out by virtue of being a campaigner for expenses reform, or for being in the fortunate financial position where they did not claim expenses. We need to judge them on what contribution they will make to putting in a new system of expenses which the public will accept, and which is affordable in the new parlous financial circumstances of the public sector.
This morning on the radio Ms Harman, Leader of the House of Commons, has sought to remove the expenses issue from all the candidates, by saying that the government will legislate to put all expense issues outside the control of the House. It will use its majority to set up an independent body which settles the terms of the scheme and administers it, so that means a new Speaker will have no role if the government has its way.