Obviously, like his many Labour supporters, I hold no brief for Mr Bercow's past in the Monday Club or the Federation of Conservative Students. But he has changed, just as Margaret Beckett has abadoned her early eighties Bennism. And the issue should be: what will he do as Speaker in 2009 and beyond? As today's New Statesman puts it
The backbencher, who in 2002 told his own party it was “racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-youth”, has proved himself the most independent-minded of all the ten candidates.
Margaret Beckett has been a loyal cabinet minister, though it is hard to recall anything innovative that happened on her watch. Most recently, she sidelined radical reform of housing policy. She was always seen as a safe pair of hands on the Today programme, and that is why she is gaining support in the Commons, including from many Conservatives who see Bercow as too liberal. She should have been made Minister for the Today Programme again. But this should not be her consolation prize for not getting the appointment.
But if MPs can't see after the last six weeks that they need a fresh face and a fresh approach, then they have only themselves to blame if they sink further in the court of public opinion. Indeed, the distasteful Tory campaign against Bercow shows politics at its absolute worst - and is a timely warning of what the Tories may be like in power again. As Steve Richards put it:
Instead of scheming pointlessly MPs should ask a single question. Which of the candidates will speak up most effectively and personify change for the Commons at a point when Britain's anti-politics culture is rabid?
A few weeks ago, I argued that we needed either Frank Field or John Bercow as speaker. Since Frank Field has chosen not to stand, John Bercow it must be.