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Monday, 23 October, 2000, 20:43 GMT 21:43 UK
The new Speaker: Michael Martin

Michael Martin 156th Speaker
Glasgow MP Michael Martin, the early leader and bookies' favourite, finally won the marathon race to replace the highly popular Labour MP Betty Boothroyd as Speaker of the House of Commons.

Speaker Martin, as he now becomes, won through despite facing an unprecedentedly packed field of contenders.

His election breaks convention as its saw Labour retain the speakership for a second time. Mr Martin is also the first Catholic to hold the office since the Reformation.

But in keeping with age old tradition, the right-wing Labour MP never officially announced his intention to stand; nor, unlike most of his rivals, did he outline a manifesto, leaving in some doubt the future tone of his speakership.

The Speaker's duty is to serve this House, not the executive power

Michael Martin
Instead, following the convention of Speaker elections, he only put his platform before the House moments before his candidature was voted on for the first time.

He told MPs: "A Speaker has a clear duty to every side of this House, especially to the backbenchers, the minority parties and the opposition parties.

"The Speaker's duty is to serve this House, not the executive power."

'Origin not a bar'

He added: "That someone from the poverty of Glasgow can stand before you seeking the great office of Speaker, my origin should be no reason for me being elected.

"Nor should my origin be a reason to debar me."

Before his speech some fears had been raised by his opponents that the MP, who opposes abortion, may fail to modernise the House.

Coming from the traditional right-wing of the party he was Denis Healey's private parliamentary secretary and a supporter of Roy Hattersley for Labour Party leader in the 1980s.

Experienced chair

He comes to the job as an experienced chairman of committees, who has been on the Speaker's Panel of Chairmen for 10 years and chaired the Scottish Grand Committee.

Mr Martin's comparatively humble origins and working-class roots put him in marked contrast to his main rival for the post, the Conservative baronet and former minister Sir George Young.

A former sheet metal worker, the new Speaker lists among his interests hill walking, folk music, local history and playing the Highland pipes.

He is teetotal, married and has a son and a daughter.

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23 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Martin set for Speaker
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