Thursday, May 21, 2009

Widders Sniffs the Labour Air

The Press Association is reporting that Ann Widdecombe is seriously considering standing as an interim Speaker until the next election. While she has not yet made a formal declaration, she is clearly up for it, but says she will wait until she has ascertained whether she would have any support on the Labour benches. I first suggested her for the position of Speaker several years ago and if the situation were different I'd unreservedly support her for the job. But love her as I do, I can't help but think that an interim Speaker would be a mistake. The public want reform of the system now, and aren't prepared to wait until the next Parliament. Any interim Speaker, whether it is Ann or someone else, would not be in a position to implement a meaningful reform programme.

Or maybe that's the wrong judgment. Maybe a figure like Ann Widdecombe, who commands huge public recognition and popularity is just the sort of figure to knock a few heads together and be seen to be doing so.


Anonymous said...

"Maybe a figure like Ann Widdecombe, who commands huge public recognition and popularity"

What planet are you on?

Anonymous said...

She would be a good choice, Richard Shepherd too, but whoever it is, it must not be an Labour MP and it must not be an MP elected outside of England.

Triffid said...

Think you may have this one backwards, Iain. Is it possible we need an interim speaker ?

We need a lot of things changed in Parliament. Anyone who pushes the changes needed won't be popular in the House for long. However, change there must be.

Why not have someone willing to sort it all out knowing they are stepping down at next election. It allows a new parliament and speaker to take over without any lingering antagonism.

I'd propose an interim speaker is exactly what is needed. Whether is Anne Widdecombe - who knows ? No idea what changes she thinks are necessary.

Witterings from Witney said...

On the basis that the present collection of incompetents should not be allowed to clean up their own mess and that a new 'intake' should do so, Ann Widdicombe as an 'interim' speaker would be ideal.

Anyway having just visited the Oxford Union and seen pictures of young Ann Widdicombe she can come and knock this old head about any time she likes!

Simon said...

Widdecombe backed David Maclean's bill to keep MP's exempt from the FOI laws and enable them to keep their expenses secret. She is part of the problem, not the solution.

Whiffler said...

The trouble is that Labour seem intent on putting Bercow in place - which they are thinking of (and may be right) as aking to leaving some kippers behind the radiators.

A temporary speaker while the current mess is sorted is not that bad an idea, and Ann is not at all a bad idea for it.

golden_balls said...

In my opinion she's too political for the job.

with every issue thats debated in the commons we know her postion. I would feel uncomfortable with having such a politically motivated speaker.

Anonymous said...

Iain.....Could you please recognise that Widdecombe voted against transparency of expenses. We need a clean pair of hands.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't she be persuaded to stay on for the next 5 or 6 years - there could be plenty of secure conservative seats available for her.

She's honest, has no dodgy expense claims and very forthright.

Unsworth said...

So, another Catholic?

Nigel said...

>>huge public recognition and popularity<<

True, but she also commands huge unpopularity.

I don't think she'd make a good Speaker, interim or not. She is an authoritarian at heart, and seems to be of rather dogmatic opinions.

And though I hate to be petty, having to listen to her voice on every report of proceedings in Parliament would be a little too much.

ian lucas said...

your last comment is exactly the point - it's because of who she is that she's the right choice. the public know and respect her hugely. if it can't be frank field, which is looking increasingly unlikely, it has to be widders, temporarily or not.

Anonymous said...

What's the point of an interim Speaker? A genuine question as I cannot see any reason or logic or purpose to having one. Ann W? Fine. Let her stand. But as a proper Speaker, not a nightwatchman.

Anonymous said...

You need to get out of London more ! This woman would be de-selected in any rural constituency. She is absolutely unacceptable to many party members, as is bercow.

Oscar Miller said...

I hope there is an effective Stop Bercow campaign. He does not have the stature for the job. Personally I favour IDS - why isn't he being talked of? He'd be excellent.

Boo said...

MPs would fear the wrath of Widders

In Despair said...

Sadly, I agree with Simon because on Widdecombe is recorded as having voted "moderately against" a transparent parliament. Martin's successor needs to be someone who has been seen to be actively supporting transparency, at the very least.

golden_balls said...

I think ian is blinded by his friendship and admmitted affection for widders.

Think long and hard ian then try to break through this fantasy world you've created where Ann would be anything other than a complete disaster.

Gareth said...

Surely an interim speaker would be the one who should do the reforming and reshaping of Parliament. Then they step from the limelight and allow a proper Parliamentarian speaker to start with a clean sheet and a Parliament of better standing.

My concern is that she apparently voted for the coverup.

Alan Smart said...


you assume an interim speaker would sit around waiting for the new permanant one. Maybe she would instead regard the 10 month max until the next GE as a timetable for action - clean it all up in time for the new guy or gal - with no need to take prisoners

I kind of like the idea. And in principle i find the idea of morley, moran, mckay and co having a say in who will ber the speaker probably for a decade distasteful - a soiled mandate

BOF2BS said...

"And though I hate to be petty, having to listen to her voice on every report of proceedings in Parliament would be a little too much."

Don't agree & a huge improvement on the late lament.......

Anonymous said...

The public want reform of the system now, and aren't prepared to wait until the next Parliament. So you are against a general election now then?

Stan said...

Widdecombe would be a good choice for an interim Speaker - and I believe that is what is needed right now. I'd be happy to see Frank Field in the position after the next election - but right now he is one of the few dissenting voices there is on the Labour back benches and it would only suit Gorfon Brown to have him muzzled (as the Speaker would be).

As for Widdecombe being too "political - does anyone really believe that Martin was a paragon of balance? I think she'd be far more balanced than Martin - who was so unbalanced he verged on unhinged!

Plenty said...

If only Michael Portillo had still been a member of the House?

Anonymous said...

It is impossible to listen to that woman's voice without wincing – it's like a weird demi-falsetto.

I hope she's not seriously considering it - but, there again, I doubt she'd come through to win anyway.

Nigel said...

Is the really the record of someone you should favour as a reforming Speaker ?

Ann Widdecombe seems to belong to the "we know better than you" tendency in government.

Madasafish said...

I take it this is a bad joke?

Ms Widdicombe as a figure to look up to and to have confidence in?

Try taking the blinkers off, Iain...

She's an outspoken champion for her own opinions. Period.

Nigel said...

Ann Widdecombe, Parliamentarian (source:

Has spoken in 11 debates in the last year — below average amongst MPs.
Has received answers to 3 written questions in the last year — below average amongst MPs.
Is a member of 0 select committee (0 as chair).
Has voted in 49% of votes in parliament with this affiliation — well below average amongst MPs.

Record on transparency:

20 Apr 2007
Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill — Keep disclosure for MPs' expense
absent20 Apr 2007
Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill — Exempt only correspondence
absent18 May 2007
Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill — That the Question now be proposed
absent18 May 2007
Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill — Continue to disclose MPs' correspondence
disagree18 May 2007
Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill — Exempt constituents' letters only
disagree18 May 2007
Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill — Third Reading
disagree18 May 2007
Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill — Third Reading
disagree3 Jul 2008
MPs' allowances — External audits and no more furniture
disagree30 Apr 2009
MPs' financial interests — Full and complete registration
disagree30 Apr 2009
MPs' expenses — No lower limit for declaration

strapworld said...

Lynn Featherstone, whiter than white. excellent Lib Dem MP. Lady of courage and intellect.

A young woman and a fresh face. She would be a superb speaker- and she would grow into the job.

Lynn Featherstone is the one!

Anonymous said...

Oh dear can you imagine her shrieking Order order. Get a grip Ian. Fearless Frank Field is the best candidate by a long long way and he does not have to be a stop-gap either. In fact a temporary speaker is the last thing needed. What is needed is someone with the strength of mind, cerebral qualities and broad respect that Martin lacked and a long term view. Widdecombe is not in the race at all and it is sad that you should be floating it.

SDW said...

Widdecombe being "up for it" as Iain suggests must be a sight to behold.....

Ive been calling for Ming for Speaker for the same reason; that he does command respect in the House and the Country. However his £10k makeover at Dolphin Sqare might have put paid to that.

One the Lib Dem front people are seriously talking about Alan Beith and David Heath.

What are the thoughts on the Glasgow NE byelection?

Tories beat the Lib Dems in both Scottish byelections last year. Will this trend continue? SNP gain?

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Nevermind the Mother of Parliaments, Widders would make it the Mary Poppins of Parliaments.

Mind you, everyone scoffed when people started talking about Boris for Mayor.

I wish that Tony Wright would stand. He is an active defender of Parliament and has a compelling and coherent prospectus for strengthening its power over the executive.

I have placed a digest of a recent speech he gave on my blog, together with a link to the podcast:

Alex said...

Just another snout in the trough. Being Speaker for a day would entitle her to an extra £70,000 a year pension.

She won't get any wotrthwhile support from Labour. The more vindictive Labour MPs will back Bercow, the more reasonable will back Sir George Young.

Not a sheep said...

As Gordon Brown doesn't have the "Courage" to call a general election then the only Speaker that this House should elect is an interim one. The election of a permanent Speaker should be by the new unsullied House.

Anonymous said...

Chris Mullin is a possible interim speaker and one keen to see reforms. Unlike, Frank Field, he'd get Labour votes and, unlike Bercow, Tory votes too. If he stuck to his current retirement planes, he'd leave the field clear for a Tory candidate in the new parliament.

Pam Nash said...

I think she has an air of authority and would do a good job - she's also 'clean' expense-wise. But I think she'd get more support if she agreed to delay retirement.

All of that said, if it's a free vote, expect Labour back benchers to not have any compunction in doing their best to get YET ANOTHER Labour Speaker, regardless of the unspoken agreement that Lab/Cons take turns.

Morus said...

Anyone who supported exempting FoI and anyone who supported the Don Touhig amendment to retain the John Lewis list is out of the question.

For any MP who was on the wrong side of those votes to become Speaker would be a slap in the face for the public and those on the side of reform.

I like Anne Widdicombe as a character, whilst not agreeing with much of her politics, but she cannot and must not become Speaker.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe a figure like Ann Widdecombe, who commands huge public recognition and popularity"

lol wide public reconition maybe but popular?

subrosa said...

Much as I admire Ann Widdicombe's efforts to become 'public friendly' I certainly don't think she could be impartial, in fact perhaps less than the outgoing Speaker.

Too late Ann, you've shown yourself to be part of the Westminster luv-in, plus of course far too much exposure on the media.

What happened to the weight loss?

Elliot Kane said...

I think Anne Widdecome would be perfect. Any serious changing of the system - as needed here - will create resentment and ill feeling in many quarters.

Anne can make the changes, then leave, allowing a new Speaker to come into a new system with a completely new slate and no resentment.

There's no doubting Anne's capabilities or integrity. I think she would do well.

James said...

Sir Alan Beith has wide experience of parliament, is respected across all parties, and is a reformer. I think the redoubtable Miss Widdecombe is far too partisan a figure to be a serious contender.

PS Facebook group for supporters of Sir Alan Beith for Speaker here:

Lee H said...

If she should get it, next would be for her to withdraw her position that she intends to stand down at the next election. She is respected, she takes no prisoners and very little outside "interests" as such. Go girl!!

Anonymous said...

"a figure like Ann Widdecombe, who commands huge public recognition and popularity"

You must be kidding. She represents all that's disliked about politicians.
Ignorant, arrogant, self opinionated, doesn't she just love telling us how to live our lives.
Anyone not already turned off politics by the recent scandals will be slitting their wrists.

Tweedledum said...

Surely her voice disqualifies her.

Anyone who's been in public life for 30 years yet can't be bothered to learn to speak properly cannot possibly become the 'Speaker.'

Stephen Folan said...

If Brown wants to end the 'Gentleman's Club' then I don't expect Michael Martin to be getting a peerage. Or am I wrong?