Friday, June 19, 2009

Why I've Bet £100 on Alan Haselhurst

The race to be next Speaker has not, it has to be said, yet caught fire. I'm doubting whether it will. Most of the comment so far has centred on the fact that John Bercow cannot command support across the House. And in my opinion that should rule him out. We have just seen the consequences of electing a Speaker whose abilities are called into question by half the House. Frank Field recognised that he couldn't continue because of this, and it is a shame John Bercow does not.

Parmjit Dhanda has fought a good campaign but no one seriously believes he will win. Sir Michael Lord is seen as too 'old guard' and Richard Shepherd is seen as too erratic.

It seems to me there are seven serious candidates - Margaret Beckett, John Bercow, Sir Patrick Cormack, Sir Alan Haselhurst, Sir George Young, Ann Widdecombe and Sir Alan Beith.

I'm not going to go into the pros and cons of all seven candidates. Most are obvious. And they all, have plus points. I'd love to see Sir Patrick Cormack in the Speaker's Chair. His love of Parliament is transparent.

I'd also love to see Ann Widdecombe don the wig. Back in March 2006 I wrote on the blog that I felt Ann Widdecombe would make a good Speaker. Indeed a poll on the blog showed that she had widespread support from blog readers. I wrote: "The Ann Widdecombe campaign for Speaker starts here!" Ann is a good friend of mine and I think she would make a fantastic speaker, but I think she suffers from two drawbacks. I have my doubts about her ability to garner support across the House and I just don't believe that an interim Speaker is a good idea. Superficially I can see why it might be, and if someone could guarantee there won't be an election until May 2010, that's one thing. But what's the point of electing a Speaker who could only be in office until October? Also, the last thing you should do in a new House of Commons, containing maybe 300 new MPs, is ask them to vote for a new Speaker when most of them won't have any knowledge of the likely candidates. So much as I deeply regret it - and she's a dear friend - if I had a vote, it would be going to another candidate.

For me, the outstanding candidate in virtually every respect is Sir Alan Haselhurst. Why? Firstly, he has proved he can do the job. When Michael Martin was ill for three months, Sir Alan stood in and received plaudits from all sides of the House for how he conducted the business of the House. He's fair but firm and doesn't suffer fools gladly. He has also shown in the hustings that he recognises the need for the role of Speaker to change. He wants to become an advocate for Parliament as well as lead a consensus for reform.

Six months ago, he would have been considered one of the favourites for the job. The fact that Labrokes are now quoting odds of 40/1 is a reflection of the fact that the media feel he has been damaged by the expenses scandal. Well, up to a point. But if he is damged, isn't Bercow (who had to repay CGT)? Isn't Beckett, over her gardening claims? Isn't Sir George Young? Why is Sir Alan being singled out?

I believe Sir Alan Haselhurst has a good chance of coming through the middle. It can be a very powerful position being most people's second choice. And from my soundings among MPs from all parties, that's the position he has. If he can negotiate the first few ballots and is still in the final four or five, he stands a very good chance of coming through the middle.

And that's why I have broken the habit of a lifetime and opened an account with Ladbrokes. I have put £100 on Sir Alan Haselhurst winning at odds of 40/1. I'm probably mad, and that bet will probably give him the kiss of death, but logic tells me that 40/1 are mad odds when you consider the system of 'knock out' voting which will take place on Monday.

UPDATE: It appears that since my bet, his odds have come down to 25/1.
UPDATE 8pm: His odds are now 16/1 with Ladbrokes!

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lmfao Dale - you are to intelligence what Gordon Brown is to panache.

William Hill have these (more realistic odds) -

the Berk - 5/2
Buckett - 5/2
Young - 5/2

Haselhurt - 33/1

Tom said...

I thought Sir Patrick Cormack was the only one besides Widdy who talked a lick of sense at the hustings on Monday. One of the precious few who really understands WHY people outside Parliament are angry and, I believe, would actually do something to turn things around. His intention to only stand for one term should also make his candidacy appealing to MPs, but I sadly suspect his voice is going to be lost out against the din of the whips...

Plato said...

I'm on Young for 11/2 [Bet-fair] fingers crossed.

Still wish Rifkind had stood though.

Anonymous said...

How on earth can you call Richard Shepherd erratic? The man votes his conscience, is that a crime?! I thought that you of all people Iain would be able to respect this quality as it is an increasingly rare one nowadays!

Anonymous said...

Iain - I dont agree with you at all. John Bercow is the only Tory MP who can win this election. Our party faces a choice on Monday - an independent minded Tory or another Labour Speaker. John has support right across the House of Commons including Labour,Conservative (its a secret ballot remember), Liberal Democrat,SNP,PC and independent MPs. He is independent minded for sure -but lets not forget he was against ID cards when the rest of the Conservative Party was in favour of them.
Im a party member of 30 years standing and I am fed up with the small minded petty attacks on John and his family from many people. They make me ashamed to be a Conservative. We want a Speaker who is not a slave to Party Politics or the whips office. Churchill never was. On Monday its a choice between Bercow or Beckett who regards the position as Speaker as a consolisation prize for being kicked out of the Government again. She is not a reformer and she is not a great defender of Parliament.
You should re-consider Iain. Your man cant win -the only Conservative MP who can is John Bercow.

Anonymous said...

I remember Mr H when I was a YC. He took a very keen interest in us young chaps. He is a very very nice man.

canvas said...

Now is the time to leave behind the status quo. I wish Haselhurst would just retire.

golden_balls said...

i perosnally hope bercow wins in the first round. would you please go into detail why you think bercow isn't suitable for speaker ? i still haven't seen a valid reason for excluding him.

Iain Dale said...

Anonymous 7.25. Note that I have not joined in the attacks on Bercow. My only comment on him is that he is unable to command the support of his own party, and that tells me a lot. A Speaker has to have the confidence of the entire House.

Iain Dale said...

Golden Balls. I just did. And I also did in the original post.

Paul said...

AW is by a long way the best choice. Unlikely she'll get it, but when have MPs ever known what's best for the country?

Anonymous said...

I see the Bercow cheerleaders are out. So lets repeat the reason why Bercow isn't suitable. Not only is he a prize porker but he is one of the ultimate prize porkers.

Bercow has claimed the maximum ACA for the last 6 years (not to mention he has belatedly paid CGT). He is not just any old trougher, not only is he top of the Conservaitve troughers over the last six years, Bercow is 'Top of the Troughers' full stop, King Trough. Prime Snorter elect, The Lord Chief Snout. Crowns he share with maybe a handful of others.

The very fact that he is standing is an affront to every taxpayer in this country. It is like an arsonist applying to be Chief of the Fire Department.

Auntie Flo' said...

Widdy is the People's Princess!

Mike Smithson said...

Iain - it's not as good as my bet at 40/1 on Margaret Beckett.

You are right and for a long period until a month ago Sir Alan was odds-on favourite to replace Martin.

I agree the voting system could produce surprises but the Labour whips seem to be out for Beckett and many Tories want to vote in such a way that stop Bercow.

rob's uncle said...

I managed to get 50p onto Sir Alan @ 35:1 = 2.8 % [Betfair] but the price then crashed to 26:1 = 3.7 %; value or not, I wonder?

Anonymous said...

But why doesn't Bercow have Tory support Iain? What is wrong with them that they can't support an independent mind who was one of the few voices pointing out harsh truths about where the party was going post-97, and who has cross-party support?

HarveyR said...

Who they will, pick.

If you want to place a bet, put a monkey on it being as a result narrow party interest, rather than in the interests of Parliament, let alone the country as a whole.

HarveyR said...

Who KNOWS WHO they will pick?

Gah!

Mullers said...

I'd say Alan Haselhurst is good - he's impartial, and he did look competent and thorough when he chaired the Budgets: as for his expenses, his letter to his constituents seemed reasonable. As well as that, he has been Deputy for ages and should get a chance of promotion.

Bercow comes across as 2 faced and is clearly sucking up to Labour with his farewell to Michael Martin, and the congratulatory letters he writes to Labour MPs after they make speeches: the fact he's tipped for the job just shows that Labour should never be let near so much as a whiff of government power again.

Margaret Beckett? Too self-satisfied and smug for my liking - the fact she served in Blair's and Brown's govts also makes me think she'd not be impartial, and as for her appearance in Question Time justifying her expenses... - Haselhurst for Speaker.

Doug said...

Hazelhurst is easily the most experienced candidate for the Speakership. I hope he wins.

Phil said...

Iain - you should lay the bet the other way (i.e. be the bet writer) at c. £150 and you're quids in either way.

£50 up if AH loses, £250 up if he wins.

I'm sure Bet Fair can help you hedge! :)

I'm a big Sir Alan Haselhurst supporter, by the way.

Doug said...

Also Bercow may be independent minded but he is clearly an independent Labour MP, a thorn in the side of the Tory leadership (no wonder they don't like him) and has been sucking up to the Labour leadership. Clearly not a candidate for an impartial Speaker. He's also a big trougher and two faced.

Pete B - Pete's Politics Blog said...

Massive shame that Parmjit Dhanda is unlikely to win. He'd really be a breath of fresh air and would certainly be better than the failed assistant of a failed speaker.

Anonymous said...

Bercow Trougher? I dont remember Bercow claiming for having Wisteria removed from his chimney.Oh yes of course that was our party leader wasnt it. And who has claimed the most mortgage interest? David Cameron I think.

Anonymous said...

I apologise, having posted this link before, but it's worth watching. This Is A.H. at his best; not "suffering a fool gladly".
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Sl4yAGxVDo

Anonymous said...

Personally, I wouldn't vote for any of them. Has parliament ever been so bereft of talent that this flotsam is all that's left?

Margaret Beckett? John Bercow? Please.

Paul Linford said...

I share the analysis of Ben Brogan earlier this week that the Tories just don't have a strategy for this election, beyond stopping Bercow who as anonymous 7.25pm points out is actually the only Tory who seems to command significant support elsewhere.

As Mike Smithson says, the Labour whips are out for Beckett and unless the Tories can quickly get some momentum behind one of their candidates, there is going to be a third successive Labour Speaker.

In my view, the only Tory besides Bercow who is capable of attracting significant support on the Labour and Lib Dem benches is Sir George Young. Tory MPs would be better off getting behind him and encouraging some of their no-hope candidates to withdraw, but as it is, I can see their vote splitting six or seven ways while Labour lines up solidly behind Beckett.

That said, if I were into political betting I would have to agree that Haselhurst is worth a flutter at 40-1.

Jonathan said...

So he "doesn't suffer fools gladly".

Are you sure he is cut out for a career in Parliament?

Flemingcrag said...

Iain Dale you should be ashamed of yourself. Parliament and the MPs of dubious character who despoil it by their very presence have been served notice by a disinfranchised electorate that they better clean up their act or face a massive rejection at the ballot box.
What is your reaction to this the first act to clean out the "pigsty"..To bet on who will be the next Speaker.
The Speaker should be the most active and potent force in this clean-up, your posting on who to bet on reduces it to the level of: Can I profit from this?
In case your memory fails you, let me remind you this very process of profiting from a bet is what elevated Michael Martin to the post of Speaker. Very many Labour MPs profited from voting this dark horse and totally unqualified individual into a once great office of State.
Thanks for a great start to my week-end Iain, I feel my cornflakes coming back on me. Here was me thinking only Politicians could make me sick.

Iain Dale said...

Flemingcrag, Get over yourself. I've never read such pious nonsense. I've written extensively on this election over the past few weeks. To bet was not my first reaction. I haven't bet on anything since 1995. But when I see ridiculous odds, why not? Enjoy your cornflakes.

VotR said...

Look out mate, she's behind you.

Oh no she isn't.

Oh yes she is.

What a pantomime, Iain.

If Widdecombe doesn't get in, your choice seems fair enough, considering Haselhurst is deputy speaker and has some experience.

Don't want Liebour getting another speaker in, at least until the police and Scotland Yard drama comes to a close. The Tories may have a few things to hide regarding expenses, but they aren't in charge at the moment, so the implications of their part in the scandal, while still significant, pale compared to the Labour government. I hope the next speaker is a Tory.

Andrew said...

I have just heard another good reason not to support John Ber cow - Polly Toynbee thinks it should be him.

I hope that it's Hazelhurst - he seems the most impressive of the lot. You would think that after these last few weeks that they would have learned that a Whips-inspired tribal stitch-up will confirm the electorate's worst fears about them all.

FireForce said...

Just heard Widdlecombe on Radio 4 "Week in Westminster" I did thin her for the job,, but after hearing that shrill voice, no, no, no, even worse than that awful Gorbals Mick accent, and I say that as a Scotsman!

James Higham said...

With Ann Widdecombe, there might be a little sense.

disillusioned Dale blog reader said...

Iain,

Beers on you when your bet comes up trumps! See you in The Old Opera house in the Wells! (Yes, I know you drink sparkling water with a dash of lime but that won't stop the rest of us....!)

disillusioned Dale blog reader said...

PS If you register with Paddy Power, they give you a free £10 bet to start with. REGRETTABLY, they do not offer a book on the next Speaker - DAMN!!!

Anonymous said...

looks like the bookies are running scared by shortening the price

Adrian said...

He was 16-1 at Paddy Power when I had a flutter this morning. An hour later he was in to 12-1.

I guess the sensible money is on Beckett or maybe Young, but we'll see...

^Manta^ said...

"Anonymous said...
Lmfao Dale - you are to intelligence what Gordon Brown is to panache.

William Hill have these (more realistic odds) -

the Berk - 5/2
Buckett - 5/2
Young - 5/2

Haselhurt - 33/1

June 19, 2009 6:55 PM"

Not that those odds for S'Alun would have any influence on how MPs voted of course...

Anonymous said...

Am I the only person who thinks that Harriet Harman looks quite shagable in this photo?

Simon said...

What will this Government’s legacy be? Will they burst the ball because they are losing the match? Have they learnt anything from the last few scandalous weeks? The next speaker must be ‘whiter than white’ in their expense claims record and have the trust of all MPs and the general public; which suggest Anne Widdicombe may come up on the rails with a storming finish to win by half a length over Sir George Young in second and Margaret Beckett a further length behind in third. Pulled up over late expenses query John Bercow and the pure bloodstock Frank Field was a non runner(He may run in ten months time due to public demand).

troymolloy said...

Jain I would be fascinated to hear what you think are Beckett's plus-points, considering she is an intellectual Pygmy with the public-speaking talent of the average five-year-old (with the ability to command roughly the same amount of respect). That said, I think you have made the right call.

simon said...

You say that Haslehurst received plaudits from the House during his extended locum period. Gorbals Mick has received plaudits as recently as this week, and on umpteen occasions over the last couple of months ... fat lot of good that did him.

fatter than prescott said...

In March 2006 the Parliamentary fees office wrote to him requesting copies of his actual bills, warning that without them it would be unable to reimburse him in future.

The letter stated: "Regulations require the Department of Finance & Administration to seek receipts or invoices for individual items costing £250 or more; in this case the relevant supporting documentation for the utilities and Repairs/insurance/security was not included with your claim."

Sir Alan's response was to leave an angry message on the fees' office's internal queries system, in which he wrote: "I CAN'T UNDERSTAND WHY U R DOING THIS TO ME u have pd me the last 11 months without querying my claims I want u to call me back today with an answer."

looks like your bet is toast

BushBaby said...

What really annoys me is the next speaker will be elected by a bunch of thieves not for their suitability by by petty political tribal machinations.
The Commons represent the people so why is the people do not elect the Speaker to represent them.
If so Frank Field would be a serious contender and Anne Widdicome would be right at the top table too.
If only

jimbo said...

Put a £ on Vince Cable #cable4speaker