With several MPs declaring they have no confidence in The Speaker, speculation is rife about whether Michael Martin will either be forced out of office or voluntarily resign. He's letting it be known that he intends to go on, but I suspect that he will, sooner or later, see that the writing is on the wall for his speakership. There are five scenarios, each of which is likely to produce a different successor.
1. He is forced out of office in the next two months.
2. He announces soon that he will step down in the Spring.
3. He announces in the Spring that he will stand down just before the Summer recess.
4. He announces that he will stand down at the next election
5. He makes clear it is his intention to go on past the next election
If Michael Martin is forced out, it makes it much less likely that Labour MPs would vote for a Conservative successor. Tribal loyalties will win the day. Paul Murphy is the compromise candidate being much discussed in Westminster, although it would be odd to go straight from the Cabinet into the Speaker's chair. Others are suggesting that Sir Ming Campbell might well be a compromise candidate around whom the whole House could unite. Some Labour MPs are saying they would be happy to support John Bercow on the basis that it would annoy the Tories. But several Tories of my acquaintance have told me they would make it their business to ensure that he didn't get a sniff of it.
The most likely departure scenario is that Michael Martin will announce that he will step down in the Summer, of his own volition. This is what Betty Boothroyd did in order to allow her successor a year to 'bed in' before the subsequent election.
In February I did a similar post to this, listing my top ten tips to succeed Michael Martin. I think that little has changed since then, although I would replace Vince Cable in the list with Paul Murphy and promote Sir Ming Campbell higher up. This list is compiled on the basis of Michael Martin stepping down in the Summer of his own volition.
1. Sir Alan Haselhurst (Con)
For: Been deputy for many years and performed well when Gorbals Mick was ill. Popular across the divide.
Against: His age, although he's the youngest 70 year old you'll ever meet.
2. Sir George Young (Con)
For: Respected, with wide experience of political life.
Against: Seen as a toff by Labour MPs.
3. Sir Ming Campbell (Lib)
For: Liked and respected and would gain support of the whole House
Against: Age and health
4. Paul Murphy (Lab)
For: Not tribal, consensual
Against: Currently in the Cabinet
5. Sylvia Heal (Lab)
For: Has few enemies.
Against: Has few friends on the Tory or LibDem benches.
6. Alan Beith (Lib)
For: Has no enemies.
Against: Seen as incredibly dull.
7. Frank Field (Lab)
For: Liked and respected by most MPs who've never worked with him.
Against: Over Gordon Brown's dead body.
8. Sir Patrick Cormack (Con)
For: Deep love of Parliament and knowledge of procedure.
Against: Age and battlescars from reselection.
9. John Bercow (Con)
For: Independent minded, turned off by party politics.
Against: More popular with Labour MPs than his Tory colleagues.
10. Sir Michael Lord (Con)
Against: Regarded by most as having had his day
David Davis - Has made clear he doesn't want to do it, but might he be persuaded?
Andrew Mackinlay - A true Parliamentarian, but government unlikely to be in favour
Ken Clarke - Would be popular but terribly bored
Keith Simpson - Would be a more traditional speaker and provide great entertainment
Michael Ancram - Liked, has the necessary gravitas
Bob Marshall-Andrews - Stop gap until the next election? Bring it on!
If you have any further suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.
And don't forget to have your say and vote in my poll HERE.
For what it's worth, and it isn't much, if I had a vote, it would go to Alan Haselhurst.