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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Time to sack the Speaker

The Guardian website is reporting that the Speaker of the House of Commons is facing a no confidence motion following his woeful and disgraceful performance yesterday. Michael Martin used his statement to censure a number of MPs who attempted to speak out against his handling of the row over parliamentary expenses and allowances:

Martin initially advised in a ­statement MPs consider "the spirit of what is right" when claiming expenses.He then turned on Kate Hoey, Labour MP for Vauxhall, who questioned the decision of Commons ­authorities to call in the police to investigate leaking to the Daily Telegraph.

Waving his finger, Martin said: "I just say to the honourable lady: it's easy to say to the press this should not happen. It is a wee bit more difficult when you don't have to give quotes to the Express – the press rather – and do ­nothing else. Some of us in the house have other responsibilities [than] talking to the press."

Martin's voice shook as he concluded. He was also forthright in slapping down the Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, who has pushed for transparency. He asked whether the Commons commission would bring ­forward release of MPs' expenses rather than wait for publication in July. The Speaker said: "Another individual member keen to say to the press whatever the press wants to hear … it is wrong for the honourable gentleman to say the Commons has done nothing."

Asked on Radio 4's PM whether Martin was the best person to defend the interests of the Commons, Hoey said: "Clearly he thinks he is. Let's say I just wish we still had Betty Boothroyd."

Now Tory MP Douglas Carswell has said he would canvass for signatures for what would be the first no-confidence motion in a speaker in more than 300 years. He is quite right to do so in my opinion.

I have defended the speaker in the past on a number of issues but have always been critical of his attitude towards allowances and expenses and in particular the fact that he and the Commons Commission that he chairs have been a major obstacle to the transparency and accountability that is so necessary to the way that MPs operate.

Yesterday he showed that despite the very understandable public outrage about the behaviour of MPs and the failure of the House of Commons authorities to put in place proper and proportional rules and regulations he is still does not comprehend what all the fuss is about. I think it is now clearly time for him to go and let somebody else take over who is more sensitive to public opinion.
Weeds and nettles, briars and thorns, have thrived under your shadow, dissentment and division, discontentment and dissatisfaction, together with real dangers to the whole.
I, too, defended Michael Martin in another place from the charge of being an absolute disaster when he stumbled a few years back. I can recall other Speakers who have shown a similar degree of slight partiality in times gone by.

I suggested then that he was adequate for the job. However, it would need a totally brilliant Speaker to justify his personal use of expenses since then and this week's very personal attack on a fellow member.

There is a unionist view from Kate Hoey's native sod.
I hope that someone takes the fight to his own backyard in Springburn at the next election. It'd be interesting to see him defend his line up there, away from the House. If the LDs and Tories won't campaign against him again, maybe Martin Bell will?
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