Who came out best from the first hustings?
This afternoon’s hustings for the 10 MPs seeking to take over from Michael Martin a week today was both an entertaining event and very instructive for all those interested in the political process. Each of them made good cases and my sense overall is that this could be a lot closer then we thought. My ratings:-
Margaret Beckett (Lab) Came over reasonably well, dealt effectively with the issue of her being a minister for so long and had some interesting insights on process. Score 7/10
Sir Alan Beith (Lib Dem) He put on a reasonable performance placing great emphasis on his record and being an “experienced hand on the tiller”. Wanted changes to PMQs. Score 6/10
John Bercow (Con) Not very insightful with a touch of arrogance. He had lots of platitudes but that was about all. I can see why many of his fellow Tory MPs don’t like him. Score 3/10
Sir Patrick Cormack (Con) In many ways Cormack has a good presentational style and had a few ideas. He did OK but there are other Tory grandees as well. Score 5/10
Parmjit Dhanda (Lab). To me he was the big surprise of the afternoon. He’s articulate, has a lot of ideas and is persuasive. His problem is that he’s only 37. But on the day his was the best performance. Score 8/10
Sir Alan Haselhurst (Con) For someone who has been such a front-runner for so long I found him to be a disappointment. He stressed his experience and there was just the sense that he felt entitled to the job. Score 5/10
Sir Michael Lord (Con) Probably the least known of the grandees he came over well and had some original thoughts. Score 6/10
Richard Shepherd (Con) I’ve been a great fan of Richard Shepherd for a long time and he did well at the hustings. He laid great stress on wanting a proper election for speaker after the general election. I just wonder whether he has the energy to take on the role. Score 7/10
Ann Widdecombe (Con). She came over in her usual engaging way but somehow you could not imagine her in the role. She felt that being well-known might be an advantage – a suggestion that made her look a bit arrogant. Score 4/10
Sir George Young (Con). He did not make much of an impression although he came over reasonably well I cannot recall anything that he said. Score 5/10
Voting by secret ballot takes places a week today. Speaker Betting Prices.