Public opinion is up the pole on this one. MPs know best on who will be the best new Speaker.
An opinion poll shows that 44% of the 5,000 questioned had no opinion. Sensible of them to keep stum. A staggering 27% support TV star Anne Widdecombe. Alan Beith and John Bercow scored 1% each. Those are ludicrous judgments on the merits of the candidates. Anne would not be better than John. She certainly is not 27 times as good.
A correspondent has had a strop against me and in favour of the immaculate Anne. Deeply influenced by the herd instinct he denounces MP fiddlers as unfit to choose a new Speaker. The interesting argument is that the 650 sin-free saints who will be elected in May 2010 should make the choice. Perhaps not.
Selwyn Lloyd’s biographer approached Gordon Prentice in the early days of the plan to persuade Michael Martin to resign. Selwyn retired early because he wanted his successor to be elected by experienced MPs who knew the candidates well. Fresher MPs in a new parliament will be acquainted with candidates only by reputation of through the media.
Last time, Gordon Prentice organized his own Hustings. All the main candidates turned up, delivered their party pieces and answered questions. Michael Martin did not. When he was elected he confronted Gordon in the tearoom with ‘Ahhhh. Mr Hustings.’ Had he matched himself with the other aspirant speakers, his deficiencies would have been obvious and we might has been spared the travails of his speakership.
This time it will be better. Tomorrow’s Hustings will prove that.
Carry on scrapping
‘Oh no!’ I said last night, rejecting the invitation of Radio Five Live to join a wail-in on Labour’s internal rows.
I thought the plan was to bury all divisions after Monday’s meeting and not to self-indulgently wallow in the poison pit of internal rows. Charles Clarke cannot be silenced. But his volcanic envy and rage is a solitary affliction. Andrew Rawnsley wonderfully mocked Milliband’s tormented public musings today.
‘Yet neither the foreign secretary nor the home secretary has come out of recent events covered in glory. Mr Miliband says he "thought about" resigning. You can't be almost courageous. Both are accused of having less spine than a jellyfish for not acting to put the prime minister out of Labour's misery when they had the chance.’
The stage-managing of the PLP is starkly revealed by the published minutes. Speakers indicate at the meeting their desire to speak. I signaled frantically at the start of the meeting and expected to be called as one of the first five speakers. I was the 20th. Others were not called at all. The proof that the lists of speakers had been carefully choreographed to select six pro-Brown speakers for every anti was that the Chairman first called the Blair/Brwon groupie Stephen Ladyman. He was not in the room!
I had fondly believed that the days of stage managing PLP meetings had disappeared with Tony Blair. Alas no.
Surfeit of secrecy
Tuesday may well witness another eruption from Labour benches.
If a secret inquiry into the Iraq war is announced, the sago will hit the fan. There has been a lively response to my blog on PASC’s seminar. Relatives of the fallen want a public inquiry. Already secrecy has been abused to defend the backs of those who dragged the UK into an unnecessary war.
139 Labour MPs and six Tories defied three line whips to vote against. They should be vindicated. At least 50 Labour MPs who had previously voiced opposition were bullied, bribed or bamboozled into abstaining or backing the war. They too want the truth.
There are legitimate arguments for a secret Franks style inquiry. There are far more powerful ones for a public one.
It's like meeting a beautiful new friend.
Every fortnight I drive from Newport to Wookey Hole to visit my immediate family. The drive is joyous champagne for the soul. My route is through the lovely Mendip villages of Locking, Banwell, Winscombe, Axbridge, Cheddar, Draycott, Rodney Stoke, Westbury, and Easton.
One of my relatives today suggested an alternative route today. It is even more beautiful. The B 3139 road is wide and traffic is light. It took me and my companion on an adventure into the unknown gorgeous territory of Burcott, Henton, Bleadney, Theale, Wedmore, Blackford, and Mark. Although I cannot find it on any map, I also drove through a hamlet named Sexey Street. There is also a Splott farm.
I have boasted that the secret of my interesting life is that I was born in Grangetown and educated in Splott. That’s the Splott suburb of Cardiff. It’s one of the words that have migrated across the Severn estuary. In Somerset they have ‘rhynes’. In Gwent we describes drainage ditches as ‘reens’. The word that describes a small estuary on the Welsh and English sides is ‘Pill’.
I look forward to repeating the journey with a camera next time. Just to prove that there is a place named Sexey.