Ann Widdecombe, the Conservative MP for Maidstone and the Weald, has announced that she will stand to become Speaker for the House of Commons.

The MP, who plans to retire at the next general election, told Sky News: “It’s vital that the reputation of Parliament be restored with the public and the Speaker will play a major part in that.”

“I would not stand at all if I didn’t think I had some good support, and if I didn’t think I had support from both sides of the House,” she said. “I’m satisfied that I’ve got that.”

She added that she planned to stand as an interim speaker, saying that if a general election were to be called in 2010, she would have “the best part of a year” in the role before retiring.

Former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett also joined the race, making nine MPs in total hoping to succeed Michael Martin.

Martin was forced to resign for mishandling the crisis over MPs’ expenses. His exit statement lasted 33 seconds.

Widdecombe has previously voted very strongly against equal gay rights and government plans to allow unmarried and gay couples to adopt children.

In 2000, she said gay lifestyles did not have “equal validity” with heterosexual relationships. She later dismissed the first Conservative LGBT summit as “misguided”.