Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Speaker Martin to go

13:05 BBC News is announcing that the Speaker is to announce his retirement this afternoon. No doubt Peter Black who has for some time said that the Speaker should go will comment in due course.

One thing (which I have commented elsewhere) needs saying: that the pressure on Michael Martin to go has been building up for some time, and the fact that he has defended the present system of MPs expenses is only the final straw. He must not be a scapegoat for that; the demand for reform of paying MPs continues.

For me, the expenses issue in itself was not the deciding factor. It was his denigration, publicly, of Kate Hoey MP and, particularly, Norman Baker MP for taking a principled stand on the matter. Before that, he had failed to defend the rights of an elected member, Damian Green, against an invasion of his office in Westminster by police.

At no time have I joined in the snobbery of some Conservative members over Michael Martin's origins as a working man from Glasgow. Let us not forget that this showed itself over previous Speakers, George Thomas (a working man from South Wales) and even one of their own, Bernard Wetherill, who was a tailor before he became a full-time politician. Though there were occasional suggestions of minor partiality on the part of both, neither lost the confidence of the House. Snobbery was not the reason for the widespread dissatisfaction with Speaker Martin among MPs, and it is disingenuous for Labour to suggest that it was.

Frank Little

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