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Saturday, May 16, 2009

A growing momentum to ditch Speaker Martin

The Times speculates that the Liberal Democrats are about to come on board the campaign to replace Michael Martin as Speaker with somebody more in tune with the public mood over MPs expenses.

They say that the party’s deputy leader, Vince Cable disclosed that there would be a party statement about Michael Martin next week after Chris Huhne, the Home Affairs spokesman, made an outright call for the Speaker to go:

Asked whether he agreed with Mr Huhne’s comments, Mr Cable told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: “Neither Nick Clegg nor I are taking that view, because we take the view that if we did that would be an expression of the view of the whole party.

“What we have said — and Nick Clegg has said this very clearly — is that the Speaker has not handled this crisis well going back some months. It all came to a head on Monday when he rounded on Norman Baker and Kate Hoey. I think that was completely unacceptable.

“I think we have to be careful — and Nick Clegg and I are being careful here — that we want to respect the office of the Speaker and separate that issue from an individual. We have been saying that the office has not been well conducted in recent weeks.

“I think we will make a statement about this in due course as a party. We will have to wait and see how events develop over the next few days.”

The paper says that there are two methods of focussing on the future of Michael Martin as Speaker. The party could use one of their own Opposition day debates, or go much further and table a motion of confidence in the name of the leadership. That would probably require tacit support from the Conservatives.

Important as I think it is to remove the main obstacle to reform in the House of Commons we also have to be careful that this is not seen as displacement activity. The party itself needs to set out its own position on errant MPs and make it clear that abuses will not be tolerated. We should also produce a clear set of rules and standards for Liberal Democrat MPs to follow in future.

I am looking to Monday's meeting of the Federal Executive for this lead. I hope I will not be disappointed.
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