Monday, May 18, 2009

How Michael Martin could get out of this........

Michael Martin would have to be a political Houdini to get out of the trouble he is in.

First it was just rumblings against him. Then it was rumblings plus a newbie trouble making Tory. Then it was rumblings plus a newbie trouble making Tory plus some Lib Dem front benchers.

Now, it's all of those things plus the leader of a major political party and virtually all the newspapers who are saying that he should go.

Some have suggested that Mr Speaker is the victim of snobbery, that the Tory elite can't cope with being told what to do by a former metal worker. For heaven's sake, they did what former Tiller girl Betty Boothroyd told them because she commanded their respect.

The charge sheet against the Speaker is quite simple - he has consistently failed to maintain the integrity of Parliament. He has been an obstacle to reform and transparency in Parliament and his behaviour over the Damian Green incident in failing to protect the rights of MPs fell well below what we expect in a Speaker.

Now, I'm all in favour of people being given a second chance, but only if they realise where they have gone wrong - and I have not seen any tiny indication that he does. His snarling despatch of Kate Hoey and Norman Baker last week was completely unacceptable.

If he were going to get out of this, he would have to eat an awful lot of humble pie. He would have to realise that the biggest problem not the fact that the Telegraph has enough expenses scandal to keep it going until Christmas, but that this would never, ever have happened if he hadn't spent a fortune of taxpayers' money in the Courts defending MP's rights to secrecy. If he'd been a force for openness and transparency, we would not be in the mess we are in now.

If he can recognise that, apologise and suggest some concrete things he's going to do to enact the reform that is necessary, then there might be a tiny chance that he could stay in office. I don't really think he has what it takes to do that, though. The arrogance of some of his friends and advisers, George Foulkes for one, shows that he's surrounding himself with people who are encouraging a fortress mentality. We're not in the middle of some tribal class war here - it's a battle to regain the trust of the British people.

I think the best thing he could do is go so that the spotlight does return to change and not hover on his unseemly, undignified fight to cling to power.

My worry, is, though, that if he goes, some MPs will think they've found their fall guy and we can get back to business as usual. No, what needs to happen goes much deeper than a simple reform of the Commons expenses system. If we are going to give proper power to the people, and rebuild confidence, we need to take this opportunity to build a new contract with them - a new constitution which enshrines their rights. That's what Nick was talking about in this article yesterday.

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1 comment:

Richard Price said...

Absolutely Caron.

Parliament cannot be the gentleman's club of the past after this.

No more "honourable member" nonsense. No more deference and made up "traditions".

A proper place of work owned by, and run for, the public, not "the members"


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