BOOKIES have made Wyre Forest’s independent MP Dr Richard Taylor one of the front-runners for the prestigious job of Speaker of the House of Commons.

Following yesterday’s historic scenes at Westminster, when current speaker Michael Martin bowed to enormous public pressure and agreed to step down following the scandal over MPs’ expenses, Ladbrokes are now offering odds of 10/1 on Dr Taylor being given the vital role of leading Commons reform.

Dr Taylor is one of only three sitting MPs who are not members of a major party, and so is viewed as being something of an outsider.

He said: “Being fifth-favourite for the role is the most amazing flattery and the most amazing compliment.

“Obviously to go forward I would need to look at what it would actually mean and all the ramifications of it – I’d always have to remember that my duty is to the people who put me here first.

“At the moment it’s just amazement and surprise and delight.”

Dr Taylor, aged 74, was a consultant physician at Kidderminster Hospital with no political experience when he was elected to Parliament in 2001 after campaigning to save his hospital from being downgraded. In 2005 he became the first independent MP to retain his seat for a second term since 1949.

He said the current disenchantment with politicians from the main political parties mean support for independent candidates has grown.

“Everybody now sees the huge benefit of being independent,” he said. “It has not been infrequently over the past few years that party members have said they wished they could have voted the same way as me.”

TV personality Esther Rantzen this week put herself forward as an independent candidate after reading about the claims made by one MP, while former independent MP Martin Bell has refused to rule out running again following the expenses scandal.

Dr Taylor said: “We’ve actually had a number of inquiries from people interested in standing as independents. Friends at home are thinking of putting together a small information pack to give people the information they need.”

But Mid-Worcestershire’s Conservative MP Peter Luff said he “would be very surprised” if Dr Taylor won the Speaker’s role when MPs hold a secret ballot next month.

“I don’t honestly think he’s got the parliamentary knowledge required,” he said.

Mr Luff said he believed Mr Martin “had to go” and hoped it was “the first step” in restoring public trust in Parliament.

Worcester’s Labour MP Mike Foster said Mr Martin’s resignation was “always likely given the circumstances of the past few days”.