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Monday, 17 July, 2000, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Who will replace the Speaker?

Betty Boothroyd will be a hard act to follow
Former Speaker Lord Weatherill once said, the role is "one of the jobs that, if you want it, you will never get it, and if you're seen to want it, you will certainly never get it."

Despite these wise words of warning, two candidates have already thrown their hats in to the ring to replace Betty Boothroyd as Speaker when she retires in October.

Veteran Labour backbencher Gwyneth Dunwoody - seen by many as the natural successor to Betty Boothroyd - has told BBC News Online that she wants the job.

Betty's successors?
Gwyneth Dunwoody
Nicholas Winterton
Sir Patrick Cormack
Alan Beith
Menzies Campbell
Sir George Young
Sir Alan Haselhurst
And Tory backbencher Nicholas Winterton has also announced his intention to stand.

More mindful of the advice of Lord Weatherill, Sir Patrick Cormack, another senior Tory, has been more circumspect, allowing friends to say he would "like to be considered" for the role.

There are rumours that Tony Blair would favour the candidacy of a Liberal Democrat like Menzies Campbell over that of Gwyneth Dunwoody, a self-confessed member of the awkward squad who has clashed with the government over its plans to part-privatise air traffic control.

Mrs Dunwoody admitted to News Online: "I will be the outsider because a lot of people have organised support, but I must be humble.

"Luckily I've got some good friends, and I do know the territory," she said.

Liberal speaker?

The Deputy Leader of the Lib Dems, Alan Beith, is another name being touted, but it is unlikely that he and Menzies Campbell would launch rival campaigns.

Alan Beith
Alan Beith: Could the Lib Dems break the mould?
If Mr Campbell or Mr Beith were elected, they would be the first Liberal to hold the position since the 1920s.

The position has alternated between Labour and Tory MPs ever since then, but this is simply convention and there is no reason why it could not be overturned this time.

Miss Boothroyd said her decision to go before the general election would ensure MPs were aware of the qualities of her potential successors.

'Dragged' to the chair

Traditionally, however, MPs should not be seen to be campaigning for the role.

When they take the Speaker's chair after election the convention is that they are "dragged" to the chair by their colleagues, supposedly against their will.

The job is a comfortable way for a politician to see out the twilight of their career - the incumbent not only receives an annual salary similar to that of a cabinet minister at around 95,000, but gets a plush grace and favour apartment in the Palace of Westminster.

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See also:

12 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Profile: Madam Speaker
12 Jul 00 | UK Politics
The role of the Speaker
12 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Appreciating Betty Boothroyd
14 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Dunwoody confirms Speaker candidacy
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