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Tuesday, June 1, 1999 Published at 08:08 GMT 09:08 UK

UK Politics

Campbell downplays Speaker speculation

Menzies Campbell says the article is 'speculation'

Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Menzies Campbell has downplayed a report that a cross-party group of MPs are "touting" him to be the next Speaker of the House of Commons.

Menzies Campbell: I'm flattered but it is speculation
The MPs believe Mr Campbell - who last week dropped out of his party's leadership contest - would be an ideal successor to Betty Boothroyd as he is widely respected by the public and all sections of the House, according to The Times.

Mr Campbell insisted that he knew nothing about the suggestion, which he described as "interesting speculation".

"I am flattered but I have to tell you that I know nothing about it," Mr Campbell told the BBC.

He said: "Any proposition of this kind is extremely flattering but I think one would have to think there was some substance in it before one took it seriously."

According to the Times, MPs have begun thinking about possible replacements for Ms Boothroyd as they believe she intends to stand down next year after her 70th birthday and the millennium celebrations.

Leadership contest

Mr Campbell's could be available following his decision not to be a candidate in the election to find a successor for Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown.

The North East Fife MP had been thought a strong contender for the leadership. But he ruled himself out after taking soundings within the party about his chances.

Mr Campbell said: "I have to consider the interests of the party, the interests of my family, the interests of myself.

"Having taken soundings and thought about the matter very carefully, I reached the conclusion that it was not appropriate for me to stand. I think what I have done is the right thing."

He predicted that there would now be a "robust" contest to take over from Mr Ashdown, who is to stand down after the European elections on 10 June.

"What we have got to have is a fair contest, a contest which allows people to express robustly their proposals as to the direction the party should take," he said.

"We will, out of that, get a leader who commands the overall support of the majority of the party."

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