How challenging is the voting system for the favourite?
Next Tuesday we’ll know who Michael Martin’s replacement is going to be and we’ll be looking forward to the first big occasion for the new office holder at PMQs the following day. After spending a couple hours watching the hustings yesterday this is proving to be an absorbing contest and one where I’ve got too much money committed in bets.
The critical element is the voting system and the fact that runners don’t actually have to announce their intentions before the day. So somebody new could come up and totally change the race. Then there will be an exhaustive series of secret ballots with the list getting smaller as the bottom one is knocked off each time until one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote.
To my mind this is the real challenge for John Bercow – the Tory right winger turned left-winger who is said to have the backing of 100 Labour MPs and is currently the 11/8 betting favourite. By all accounts he is strongly opposed by almost the entire contingent of Tory MPs who will, it seems, support anybody other than the former Monday clubber.
After watching him at the hustings I understood quickly how they feel. For somewhat surprisingly I found myself taking an instant dislike to Bercow and came to the view that anybody else would be better. This was not about his politics but his personality – he combines being lightweight with arrogance and just talks in platitudes. Michael Martin staying on would be preferable.
The nature of the voting system could make it challenging for someone who attracts so much hostility. As it goes from voting round to voting round the anti-Bercow forces will migrate towards the candidate most likely to defeat him.
To win Bercow needs the backing of upwards of 300 Labour MPs and my guess is that target will be difficult. Margaret Beckett, who was one of the big surprises of the Hustings session, will divert substantial Labour support. The dynamics on the day could be all important. The winner will probably be from which of Beckett/Beith/Young is in the final round with Bercow – but don’t rule out a late entry to the race.
I have bets all at reasonable odds on Bercow, Beckett, Beith and Young.