ONE of the most hotly-debated succession sagas looks set to keep on rolling as M&S yesterday shunned questions about how the search for Sir Stuart Rose’s successor was progressing.<br /><br />Rose furiously batted away questions on the M&S’s succession plans, despite it being a concern weighing heavily on many analysts’ minds. <br /><br />“I’m not answering questions on succession – my answer is the same as it always was”, he indignantly responded to all inquiries.<br /><br />The company says it will appoint a chief executive next year – when Rose will become non-executive chairman before leaving the group completely by July 2011 – and would prefer an internal appointment. It appears Rose is keen to remain silent until then.<br /><br />Reporting on the group’s half-year figures yesterday Rose was flanked by internal candidates all tipped for the role: finance director Ian Dyson, director of clothing Kate Bostock and head of food John Dixon.<br /><br />Dyson is the analysts’ preferred internal contender due to his number-crunching skills and an impressive performance at the retailer’s investor day. Most commentators cruelly still view Dixon as Rose’s former assistant and believe it will be hard for him to creep out of Rose’s shadow. <br /><br />Many think an external candidate will still pip the inside track runners to the post. Names suggested have been a Who’s Who of British retail: HMV boss Simon Fox, WM Morrison’s Marc Bolland, J Sainsbury’s Justin King; WH Smith’s Kate Swann; and former Jaeger chief Belinda Earl. <br /><br />The link with M&S has sparked exasperated responses from virtually all players, leaving some to question whether this will become a repeat of ITV’s fruitless search for a leader. Little wonder some of the City’s great and good have raced to rule themselves out.