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The BBC's Andrew Marr
"This seven hour game of parliamentary knockout has left many members angry"
 real 56k

Margaret Beckett, Leader of the House
"The procedure ... was never designed for dealing with large numbers of candidates"
 real 28k

Tony Benn MP
"Change occurs outside Parliament"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 03:35 GMT
Speaker's election sparks reform calls

Victor Michael Martin is "dragged" to the Speaker's chair
Glasgow MP Michael Martin was starting his first full day as Speaker of the House of Commons on Tuesday, amid fresh calls for reform of the archaic selection procedure.

Bookies' favourite Mr Martin was elected as the 156th holder of the post on Monday night after seeing his rivals defeated one by one in Commons votes.

Sir George Young
Challenger Sir George Young was seen off
But his eventual victory, which sees him replace Betty Boothroyd, came only after a protracted selection process that saw the merits of 11 other candidates debated and voted on by the House.

Before voting began the former Tory prime minister Sir Edward Heath - who as father of the House presided over the election - rejected calls for a change in procedure after 30 minutes of debate

Labour veteran Tony Benn urged Sir Edward to allow MPs to vote to change the Speaker's election from a process of nomination to a straight ballot.

Mr Benn, with support from across the House, argued that with the unprecedented number of candidates - a dozen of them - for the post, the traditional system of nominating a candidate and then voting on him or her was undemocratic.

Six-hour process

But Prime Minister Tony Blair, made no mention of the controversy as he became the first to congratulate the new Speaker.

He praised Mr Martin's "inherent sense of fairness" and "good humour and gentle style of persuasion", saying they had aided his rise to the highest office the House could bestow on one of its members.

Mr Martin beat his nearest rival, former Conservative cabinet minister Sir George Young, by 317 votes to 241.

He also saw off challenges from fellow deputy speaker Sir Alan Haselhurst, deputy Liberal Democrat leader Alan Beith and Labour's Gwyneth Dunwoody - despite the fact that she was proposed by Cabinet Office Minister Mo Mowlam.

In a series of Commons divisions stretching over six hours, Mr Martin knocked out all 11 other contenders.

In keeping with tradition and to MPs' cheers and applause, he was "dragged" by MPs to the Speaker's chair once his final victory was declared: 370 votes backing him to be Speaker, with eight against.

Mr Martin said: "I thank the House for its confidence in me. I pray I will prove worthy of that confidence and all of us will maintain the high tradition of this place."

It was a Speaker's election with a number of unprecedented features. In total a dozen backbenchers had put themselves forward, making it the most crowded field in the history of Speaker elections.

For the first time candidates also took the opportunity to argue their case at a hustings meeting the morning of the election.

Traditionally, candidates for Speaker are not supposed to express any interest in the job. But this time round most of them campaigned openly, even to the lengths of issuing manifestos.

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See also:

23 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Commons at its best and worst
23 Oct 00 | UK Politics
MPs' anger over Speaker vote
21 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Museum to honour Madam Speaker
20 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Late bid to change Speaker contest
10 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Speaker rejects rules change bid
12 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Speaker Betty Boothroyd to retire
23 Oct 00 | UK Politics
The new Speaker: Michael Martin
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