The Speakership: tracking the horse race

The Speakership: tracking the horse race

Might the final fence cause problems?

This has to go down as one of the best contests, and best betting opportunities, we’ve had in British politics for a while. There are markets now on the number of rounds of voting that will be required, as well as for which candidate might be victorious. Betting links to support, as always, at the bottom of this article.

I was trying to plot out the new election system this week, and the candidates broadly fell into groups.

The early fallers: – I cannot see Anne Widdicombe getting the support of many Labour MPs (tip from Nick Palmer MP who likes her personally, but says he will vote elsewhere) and the Conservative vote will have many more plausible channels. Parmjit Dhanda is a name for the future, but might not even get the votes of all who sign his nomination form (see the wonderful blog of Tom Harris MP). I am a great fan of Richard Shepherd, but in another tight contest, I fear he will depart early as well.

I would expect both Bercow and Beckett to command sufficient support from the Labour benches (who are, after all, a majority of the House) to see them into the Final Four. Sir Alan Beith will, if last time is anything to go by, get the Lib Dem and Nationalist MPs almost as a bloc, and thus also likely to make it to the Final Four if he can secure 10% of the major parties who would consider him a good comprimise.

The Old School – These are the assembled Tory knights of Alan Haselhurst, George Young, Patrick Cormack, and Michael Lord. I suspect that after the Early Fallers have gone, one of this group will be a real contender, and that the (largely Conservative) vote will swing in behind that challenger. For my money it is Sir George Young, as I think he stand the best chance of support from the Labour benches.

The Final Four I would be surprised if in the third phase it wasn’t something like Bercow (who would have led prior to this third phase), Beckett (a constant second before the third phase), Sir George Young (who in securing the Old School vote, plus residuals, finally eeks out a lead going into the Final Four), and Sir Alan Beith (his base wanting to maximise the benefits of the new system but only making 4th).

The final round(s) of voting will be determined by where Alan Beith’s votes go if he is knocked out. I don’t think the Lib Dems will necessarily support Bercow, and I think Beckett is too recently a senior Cabinet minister (and a former party leader too, let us not forget) – that might be too much for the minor parties to stomach. I think Sir George Young will be the beneficiary if Beith is fourth. I suspect this would stretch Young’s lead, but not to over 50% of the chamber. The key to whether he can secure the Speakership will be dependent on who is second at this stage.

If Young leads Beckett then Bercow, I think Beckett wins – this would indicate there was some truth to the more cynical reports of partisanship in the Labour Party: if they cannot have the Tory who infuriates the Conservatives, they’ll appoint one of their own. If, on the other hand, Young leads Bercow with Beckett in third, an odd dynamic enters the equation.

Always consider what demographic of MP is supporting each candidate. The Early Fallers will get personal, sympathy, and independent-minded MPs, mostly (I suspect) from their own parties. Beith’s constituency is outside of the two main parties. The Old School will be older (less tribal) Labour MPs and the majority of the Conservatives. Bercow gets the younger or more tribal Labour MPs. Beckett’s voters are also (statistically) more likely to be Labour MPs, and what is more, Labour MPs who didn’t embrace the tactic of annoying the Conservatives by supporting Bercow, but clearly preferred ‘one of their own’ to a Conservative. If Young leads Bercow, the latter would need a clear majority of Beckett supporters to overhaul that lead, and I suspect that any Labour MPs prepared to embrace Bercow would have done it sooner rather than later. Bercow is Marmite to George Young’s marmalade.

This is part hypothetical, part prediction. The key is to understand what types of MP are supporting each candidate, and which better placed candidates they would be most likely to support (and in what proportions) when their first choice is eliminated. To my mind, Bercow wins early or not at all. The more rounds, the better the chances of Beith.

If the Final Four are as I suggest (Bercow, Beckett, Beith and Young), I think Young and Beckett are the only candidates capable of winning in almost any permutation.

A Final Factor: – all the candidates at hustings pledged that, although not published by the Clerks, that they will publish the names of the people who nominate them (assuming the signatories agree). This will demonstrate the degree of cross party support (or lack thereof). But it is not the only time that will be demonstrated. If the final round includes Jon Bercow, might one consideration for Labour MPs be, not only that he apparently lacks support withing the Conservative Party, but that this could be immediately known when Bercow is confirmed by a motion in the House (a public vote)?

If Bercow wins, and sufficient votes are recorded in Hansard against him by his own party, that would stoke an unfortunate disagreement early on. Bercow might come close, but there is a final hurdle that will be harder for him to cross than any other candidate.

I’ll be at Parliament all day, Twittering from the Palace of Westminster – I’m @Morus1516, and I’d recommend following people like Paul Waugh of the Evening Standard and any Twittering MPs – the vote shares in each round will be highly indicative of what is to follow later. Also check out the rules and procedures distributed to MPs, courtesy of Tom Harris MP.

****Next Speaker Betting****


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