The answer to that question is: no.
Why? Because after the last debacle, in which Martin rose to power, the Commons decided to move into the 20th century (the 21st being too much of a leap) and adopt an exhaustive ballot system. That means that unless a candidate gets elected in the first round with 50% of the vote, there will be a series of ballots until one does.
It’s a bit like the Alternative Vote system except, this being the House of Commons, they have to turn it into the procedural equivalent of the Hokey Cokey and do it by physically walking in and out of the division lobby instead of simply writing their preferences down on a simple ballot paper.
So at the same time as dismissing electoral reform for the rest of us, the Commons is not above a bit of electoral reform itself. I might not like AV for electing Parliament, but for electing a single post like this it is a no-brainer.
What all this means is that the speculation in pieces like this one in the Times is frankly bogus. Even if the Labour vote does split enough to put Sir George Young in first place in the first round, the Labour bloc is likely to have its own way in the longer run.
Personally speaking, I am a bit torn. I’ve always liked and respected Richard Shepherd’s quiet crusade for parliamentary reform and I can see the attractions of John Bercow. Alan Beith would be perfectly respectable. Sir George Young, in parliamentary terms, is a radical reformer. But he is also too much of an insider for my liking and I haven’t liked his stance on the expenses issue. Beckett, in my view, would be an utter disaster – no coincidence then that the Labour whips are hard at work to get her installed.
If Labour continues to be dominated by a bunch of self-serving venal toadies who have learned nothing over the past couple of months then Beckett is a shoe-in. Is it cynical of me therefore to be tempted to put a fiver on her?