MANY observers think that Michael Martin, the present Speaker of the House of Commons, should already have resigned his office. His abysmal passing of the buck to a junior official over the inquiry into the permission given to the police to search the office of the Conservative MP Damian Green has not been forgotten and will be revived when the business of the leaked Home Office documents that came into Mr Green's possession reaches the courts later this month. But there was little support for Speaker Martin even before this incident; his gruff manner and sometimes erratic rulings have alienated many MPs and both David Cameron and the LibDem leader Nick Clegg have pointedly declined opportunities to express their confidence in him.
One difficulty in putting pressure on Mr Martin to step down has been the absence of a suitable alternative candidate who could command support on all sides of the House. However, a solution may have been found in the groundswell of support for Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader. Labour knows it would be unrealistic to put one of its own forward for the job but does not particularly want a Conservative in it either, although the name of Sir George Young is often mentioned. Sir Menzies was a candidate when Michael Martin was chosen with Labour support; at that time he got significant cross-party backing and could probably count on it again, especially since for the first time the ballot will be secret.