The old parliament is dead. Long live the new one.The Hustings are finished but the plotting roars on.
All the candidates are silent. Secretly they are egging their supporters to play pundits for tomorrow's vote. I have had no recent contact with any candidate but I did my bit this morning on the Welsh opt-out from the Politics Show. I shall be performing on the Green at the crack of dawn tomorrow for Welsh Radio and Radio Cymru.
The Telegraph ineptly interfered today. The rest of the media stupidly reported their attack on John Berckow and Margaret Beckett as 'new'. The stuff about Margaret was released under Freedom of Information last year. It was about claims made eight years ago! While the Telegraph deserves credit for releasing telling information that would not otherwise have been made public, they have now reverted to the previous Tory-graph ways. Their attacks concentrate on the two candidates they regard as 'socialist.' The electorate they are trying to influence is canny and sophisticated. Beckett and Bercow will gorge votes from the Telegraph malice trough.
The Hustings have revealed unexpected strengths and weaknesses. I have revised all my previous odds. My intended vote is Bercow first, Beckett second and George Young third.
The expected order in which candidates will be eliminated is Shepherd, Lord, Dhanda, Cormack, Hazelhurst, Beith, Widdicombe, Young, Beckett and Bercow.
Alan Beith:Has gained support by his breezy amiable presentation. His solid Lib-Dems votes should get him past the first vote. He could well pick up extra votes and progress through the middle as the candidate no one dislikes. His major problem is the one he admits. He is a member of a small party.
Odds Were 8:1 Now 10-1
Brilliant Hustings performer. She has concentrated on her reforming success in introducing Westminster Hall debates in the teeth of opposition from the traditionalists. She has a wealth of ministerial experience but continues to suffer because she has not been a backbencher since 1972. Suspected of shameless opportunism. As Speaker she would rescue her collapsing career and secure her threatened seat at the next General Election.
Odds Were 10-1 now 5-1
Patrick Cormack: A more relaxed humorous Hustings performer. As an old headmaster he did not once order his audiences to fold their arms and sit up straight. In appealing for Labour votes, reminded MPs that he one of the handful of Tory MPs who voted against the introduction of the poll-tax in Scotland.
Odds Were 20-1 Now 10-1
George Young: Reminded Labour MPs that 79 of them them voted for him in the last contest for Speaker. 49 of them, including me, are still in the House. Still regarded as one of the top gentleman in the gentleman's Club.
Odds Were 8-1 Now 10-1
Odds Were 6-1 Now 50:1
Ann Widdecombe: Gusty Hustings speaker. A comfort vote for the the huddled masses of distraught expenses-racked MPs seeking mothering and reassurance. Could pick up extra votes at the second stage of votes from the disgruntled and those acting out of devilment.
We need a long-term Speaker not a stop gap.
Odds Were 12-1 Now 6-1
John Bercow: Has played safe at the Hustings. Has avoided verbal fireworks and concentrated on bread and butter issues. The Tories remain baffled. They do not know who he is and where he is going. Has been damaged by Margaret Beckett's Labour whips spoiler campaign. That could rebound and win some Tory support in the final vote.
Odds Were 2-1 Now 4-1
Engaging Hustings presentation. His hopes are realistically modest but he has gained attention and respect from his campaign. He is likely to be eliminated or he will withdraw after the first ballot.
Odds Were 25-1 Now 20-1
Alan Hazelhurst: Good but familiar Hustings performer. Has no convincing record as a reformer and he is associated with the Michael Martin regime. More 'singed' than other candidates by the expenses revelations. Says he would be a 'steady hand on the tiller'. Not what's wanted. We need to send the vessel off steaming in a new direction.
Odds Were 10-1 Now 15-1
Odds were 25:1 Now 50:1
Michael Lord: Hustings friendly, identifies 'modesty' as his main weakness. Has reminded MPs that he is the most reactionary candidate. He had hidden his technicolor bigotry behind his role as Deputy speaker.Another one who will walk the plank early
Odds Were 20:1 Now 40:1