Bercow tops first Speaker ballot
Four candidates were eliminated in the first round of votes
Tory MP John Bercow has received the most support in the first round of voting for the new Commons Speaker.
But as no-one got 50% of votes the process continues with a second round result expected near to 1900 BST.
Mr Bercow received 179 votes, Tory Sir George Young was second with 112 votes, Labour's Margaret Beckett was third with 74 votes of the 594 cast.
At least four candidates received fewer than 5% and will be knocked out of the race to replace Michael Martin.
The candidate with the fewest votes was current deputy Speaker Sir Michael Lord, with nine.
He was eliminated along with Tory Sir Patrick Cormack, Labour's Parmjit Dhanda and Conservative Richard Shepherd, who each received less than 5%.
Father of the House Alan Williams announced to laughter that one of the ballot papers had been spoilt.
Labour MP John Mann has already admitted that was him - he said none of the candidates had "a strong reforming agenda".
The second round of voting is now underway - voting will continue until someone gets 50% of the vote.
Ann Widdecombe, with 44, Sir Alan Beith, with 55 votes, and Sir Alan Haselhurst with 66 votes all decided to fight on.
In a series of short speeches to MPs earlier, all candidates stressed the need for reform after public outrage over MPs' expenses revelations - the issue that led to Mr Martin stepping down as Speaker after nine years.
Earlier one Labour MP accused the whips of trying to install Mrs Beckett as Speaker but she told MPs: "I have always been my own woman and a House of Commons woman at that."
Outlining her experience she said she wanted to "facilitate desired change" and pledged to take MPs with her in efforts to make reforms.
Sir George said he wanted the House of Commons to be more "relevant" and more "accessible" adding: "We have left behind the age of deference, we need to arrive at the age of earned respect."
Tory MP Ann Widdecombe pointed out her application for the post was "unique" as she would step down when she retires at the next general election - due by next June.
She said the Speaker had to be someone who could connect with the public and, in a reference to the TV shows she has done, she said that by "vulgar means" she believed she fitted that bill.
For his part Liberal Democrat Sir Alan Beith said the Speaker had to be "someone who maintains the momentum for reform and doesn't act as a barrier to it".
Meanwhile Tory backbencher John Bercow said the Commons must move the debate on from "sleaze and second homes" to "the future of this House".
There is no government line and therefore there is no whipping
Sir Alan Haselhurst, another deputy Speaker, said he could help the Commons "up its game" and if elected he would "work for change". He added: "I know the job, I believe I can do it well."
As the contest got going after weeks of unofficial jockeying for position, Labour MP Stephen Pound said government whips were "touting Margaret Beckett" and said that they should "stop doing it".
"There is a lot of skulduggery going on... it is a depressing example of MPs looking inwards to their own advantage when we really should be looking outwards," he told the BBC.
But Harriet Harman, the leader of the Commons, denied the government were attempting to sway the contest.
"There is no skulduggery, nor should there be," she told the BBC.
"Not only is it the most free of free votes, it is a secret ballot. There is no government line and therefore there is no whipping."
Mr Martin became the first Speaker to be forced from office in modern times following widespread public anger at the number of MPs who were seen to take advantage of the Commons' expenses rules.
His replacement will inherit the role of adjudicating MPs' debates, representing Parliament to outside bodies, as well as overseeing the administration of the House of Commons.
As the candidates prepared for the ballot, Mr Martin formally stepped down as an MP, paving the way for a by-election in his constituency of Glasgow North East.
The Treasury announced that he had been appointed Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead - a procedural device which allows MPs to resign between elections.