The Speaker – again

Many of you think I amk feeble in not leading the calls for the resignation of the Speaker. Some of you think I am afraid he will not call me if I do.

Let me make it clear. He frequently does not call me anyway. I am not one to be silenced by such considerations.

I did not vote for him. I would like better leadership of the Commons.

It is my judgement that if I tried to lead moves to challenge him it would not help resolve the current mess. Labour put him in, and Labour have the power either to keep him or displace him. We need to see how Labour attitudes to him change over the days ahead. His decision to argue with MPs who are critical of the current mess clearly lost him some Labour support. Time will tell how much Labour support he still enjoys. You all need to remember just how outnumbered the Conservative party is in this Parliament. If you want to remove a Speaker it is numbers that count. All the time he commands a majority we have to behave appropriately.

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35 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Let us hope enough Labour MP’s have the courage then to speak up.

    If not I fear the Press will be after him, and thus our system will remain tainted by this mans actions until he eventually goes.

    Interesting to hear the comments on This Week last night.

  2. Kevin Lohse
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Ensuring that all opinions across the House are given a fair hearing is not one of Mr Martin’s core values.
    I think that you are right avoid any prominence in this matter. I suspect that Mr Carswell’s well-intentioned efforts are doomed to failure. Any attempt by the opposition parties to remove the Speaker will be treated as a confidence motion by GB and we will have the sight of MPs being wheeled into the division lobbies on hospital beds once more.
    Have you considered throwing your hat into the ring as a future Speaker? Your integrity and undoubted love of Parliament have so far stood the test of public exposure. While the position is not normally given to such a high-profile politician, desperate measures are needed in desperate times. Sorting out the Speakers’ office will be a Very high profile job.

    • David Eyles
      Posted May 15, 2009 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

      Personally, I don’t want to see JR as Speaker, because I think that would be a waste of his talents. A Treasury Minister to sort out the banks would be a much better use of his abilities.

      • alan jutson
        Posted May 16, 2009 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        Agreed.
        And also the waste in Government spending.
        We need someone with similar thoughts to reduce/modify Red Tape/Regulation in certain areas as well.

  3. Dontmindme
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    John

    I have not commented on your blog before, mainly because it sems to me there is usually little I can add to your thinking!

    On this occasion I agree (again) with your comment above, but wanted to add a further question to those wanting he head of the speaker.

    When you have his head what will you do next? It seems to me that earthquake it would be in westminster, but outside westminster, the electorate will be just as livid as they were the day before.

    What is needed is somone who can be a parliamentary cheerleader for the peasants revolt going on outside. Only when someone starts to articulate the intense resentment felt “out there” can the process of healing begin

    Every time anyone gets up on TV and says anything along the line of “I get it that people are angry”, “The whole system is rotten” etc, they are fuelling the fires, because the person saying clearly does not get it.

    Parliament need to be able to articulate what people are angry about, and it is not about expenses. Expenses are the Archduke Ferdinand moment.

    It is not about rich vs poor. Tory Grandees are being pilloried no more or less than Labour working-classers.

    Nor is it (sadly in my view) a reaction to big governement. A government that was half the size would still be mired in it right now.

    This is about ‘us and them’.

    A heckler on QT last night yelled “you’re better than us”. He was not being sincere. There is no more toxic concept in English politics than the idea that there is one law for them and another law for us. The Commons won its supremacy and reputation because it fought against such unfairness. Now it is percieved as its very champion.

    Until the Commons gets that, it is doomed, whoever the speaker is.

    • Dan Tubb
      Posted May 15, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      I would like to chime with your point about this being a reaction to ‘big government’ the public are so angry because they feel frustrated. They feel if they have no power over government and that their MP’s don’t either. They are correct on both accounts. MP’s have been systematically striped of their power, most of which now resides not even with the executive, but with the quangocracy. Now while I see there might be good reason for a Tory not to press the issue of the speakership now, I am a great fan of Douglas Carswell’s other work, his book ‘The Plan’ http://www.amazon.co.uk/Plan-Twelve-Months-Renew-Britain/dp/0955979900/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1242401162&sr=8-1 He outlines a plan by which power can be localized and returned closer to the electorate and MP’s.

      Prior to reading this book while I was obviously delighted to watch Labour implode. I felt that when we won we would be ‘in office, but not in power’ given the extent that the establishment is now intuitionally left wing. This book shows in 30 easy steps how to reverse this process. The relevance it has here is I believe this is also the method restoring public faith in politics and much more beside.

      Despite being a keen reader of his blog I do not know Mr Redwood personally, so I would like to ask him the same question I am currently putting to all Tory Mp’s I do. Do you support ‘The Plan’ Mr Redwood, and do you agree with me this would be an ideal way to restore public faith in politics?

      Reply: I support a lot of it, and support its thrust. I think I wrote about it favourably at the time of its launch.

    • mikestallard
      Posted May 15, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      And who, pray voted for the vast numbers of Labour apparatchiks? Could it have been the very peasants who are now revolting?
      Who voted in Mr Brown on a vote Blair get Brown ticket? Peasants again?
      Who is the more guilty? The people who made this awful mess up or we, the voters who put these spivs in there in the first place?

      • dontmindme
        Posted May 16, 2009 at 6:59 am | Permalink

        It would be the same voters who are about to vote in a Tory set of apparatchiks in (i hope) vast numbers.

        Those middle England voters who followed blair because the Major government was not worth the name government, and everyone knew it.

        Now they will vote for a reinvigorated Tory party, and the cycle will start again.

        Lay off the voters, they have been shafted by this Govt and they know it. Trust me, it is not good electioneering to remind them that they were the ones who voted for it.

        • mikestallard
          Posted May 16, 2009 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

          Electioneering be damned!
          We need more than that now.
          We need real MPs who turn up for debates; who do not work so hard to justify their ridiculous salaries and expenses in order to gain promotion to a powerless future; who do not have to suck up to completely incompetent Prime Ministers, who are, in turn, run by unelected Spinmeisters.
          We need people who will put the voters in their own constituencies first and themselves second. I do not mean social workers. I mean legislators who will hold the EU mandates and the Prime Ministerial whims to account.
          We need a Speaker who is fair and unbiassed.
          We need a Leader of the House of Commons who allows for proper debate and discussion so that silly laws which are full of bias are not enacted.
          We need a House of Lords which is uncontaminated.
          We need a lot less party politics and a lot more one nation.

  4. Iain
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    ” Labour have the power either to keep him or displace him. ”

    But haven’t things gone beyond party politics and become a Parliament issue? If Labour MP’s retreat to their tribalism in support of Martin then they will get condemned by the Country. Its about initiative, for the good of Parliament and the Country MP’s have to get rid of Martin, any sensible Labour MP will see the writing on the wall and support the move to be rid of him, if Labour MP’s don’t and put their Party before the Country and Parliament then they will get condemned by the electorate. The problem is the pussy-footing around by the opposition parties and MP’s that lets Labour MP’s off the hook and doesn’t confront them with this stark choice.

  5. THE ESSEX BOYS
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    John – we don’t believe you should lead this particular campaign, just be prepared to vote in favour of the motion – if for no other reason than your love of Parliament and to help bring an end to the shambles.

    Times like these demand bold, even unorthodox action and your own broader credentials have been fully demonstrated already.

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Yesterday you posed the question: “Some of you ask, do I support a motion of No Confidence in the Speaker?” Your response was disappointingly similar to many MPs and too much concerned with party politics. You weren’t being asked to “lead moves to challenge him” just if you supported the motion. I don’t suppose MPs realise how ridiculous they sound when they in their own circumlocutory way indicate that they think the current Speaker is not up to the job and then fail to say whether or not he should be replaced. Vince Cable did it on the Today programme this morning. The point is what is best for Parliament and the country not what is best for a particular political party. Your colleague Richard Shepherd stated his opinion on yesterday’s World at One very clearly and in a dignified way explained the reasons, which had nothing at all to do with party politics.

  7. MartinW
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    It was a surprise that Michael Portillo, on “This Week” last night say that in his opinion there should be an election for Speaker before the general election, and that if the Conservatives form the government, it would be best to have “a Labour Speaker” (sic). Hmm. Three-in-a-row eh?

    There has been some comment that Betty Boothroyd was a good Speaker. I can only comment on what I saw at PMQs (an institution designed explicitly for the PM to account for his government’s actions!). She never required the PM to answer the question, and rarely curbed the habitual and excessive shouting down of the Leader of the Opposition. She was doubtless liked on all sides, but was she as even-handed and effective as her immediate predecessors?

  8. Demetrius
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    At the Battle of Poitiers in 1356, the Lord Audley and his four squires charged the French line to attempt to take the King of France. His courage disrupted the French forces, and played a part in the English victory. These days the military would call it attacking the command and control of the enemy. The Black Prince afterwards attended to Lord Audley’s injuries personally, and one squire, Nicholas Sneyd, was given the right to attach the French fleur de lys to his coat of arms. So who will be our Audley, and who will be our Sneyd?

  9. APL
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    JR: “Many of you think I amk feeble in not leading the calls for the resignation of the Speaker.”

    No, I for one don’t.
    From the earlier Blog.

    JR: “Someitmes you should allow MPs some political understanding and some knowledge of their fellow MPs. “John Redwood leads – or joins -crusade to remove Speaker” would not rally Labour MPs to your cause.”

    I agree.

  10. wonderfulforhisage
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, I’m surprised at you. Not, you understand in a schoolmasterly way, but genuinely surprised.

    I would have expected you to see the speaker as a servant of the House rather than the servant of the party in power (Labour).

    C’est tout. (sorry my Latin is too rusty for a classical sign off).

    reply: Of course I see the Speaker as the servant – and master – of the House.
    I do wish people would read what I wrote. I did not vote for Mr Martin, nor did other Conservative MPs.
    Because Mr Martin was elected by a Labour majority, the House will only remove Mr Martin if a significant number of Labour MPs have now changed their mind about him. The Conservatives ability to influence that is very limited, because many Labour MPs do think in party political manner about this issue.
    I clearly do not, as I voted for Miss Boothroyd when there was a Conservative majority..

    • Iain
      Posted May 15, 2009 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      “I do wish people would read what I wrote”

      Oh I did, but unless you opposition MP’s confront Labour MP’s with a stark choice of getting rid of Martin or putting their tribalism in front of Country and Parliament then nothing will happen for they will prefer to duck the issue and hope it goes away. It needs you to put them on the spot, and while you don’t nothing will happen.

      • Iain
        Posted May 15, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        PS I now hear that comedian Mark Thomas is going to initiate legal action to get rid of Martin.

        Its a truly sorry state when a comedian ends up tasking on MP’s responsibilities!

  11. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    The election of the Speaker involves ballot papers, but is it an unambiguously secret ballot?

    Reply: It is a normal vote of the House.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 15, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      Oh, I was reading this:

      http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200102/cmstords/27503.htm

      STANDING ORDERS 2002(2)(2)

      8)(a) A ballot shall take place in the lobbies unless the Member presiding directs otherwise.

      (b) Each Member intending to vote shall be provided with a ballot paper bearing the names of the candidates listed in alphabetical order.

      (c) Each such Member may vote for only one candidate on the ballot paper.

      (d) A ballot shall be declared closed after the expiration of half an hour and counting shall take place under arrangements made by the Clerk of the House.

      The present Speaker was elected on a motion before the House, after other candidiates had failed to get a majority.

      etc

      Is that not the procedure?

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted May 16, 2009 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        I’m not in favour of MPs voting in secret, as I think constituents should be able to know for certain how their MP voted on a particular matter.

        I’ve wondered whether the election of the Speaker should be an exception to that rule, but it seems to me that the MPs who voted for Martin should be answerable to their constituents for being instrumental in visiting such a disaster upon our Parliament.

        Recorded in Hansard for October 23rd 2000, starting here:

        http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199900/cmhansrd/vo001023/debtext/01023-01.htm

        Twelve candidates, and this is how they were sorted out:

        “I will first call Mr. Snape to move that Mr. Martin do take the Chair. That will be seconded and debated. Thereafter, we may proceed to other candidates. Mr. Winnick is to propose, as an amendment, Sir Alan Haselhurst; Mr. Wigley is to propose, again as an amendment, Mr. Beith; Mr. David Davis is similarly to propose Mrs. Dunwoody; Mr. MacGregor is to propose Sir George Young; Mr. O’Neill is to propose Mr. Menzies Campbell; Mr. Maxton is to propose Dr. David Clark; Mr. Wilkinson is to propose Mr. Nicholas Winterton; Mr. Cann is to propose Mr. McWilliam; Mr. Tom King is to propose Mr. Lord; Mrs. Shephard is to propose Sir Patrick Cormack; and Mr. Martin Bell is to propose Mr. Shepherd. That covers all those who have notified me of their wish to speak.”

        Interesting comment from Richard Shepherd, the last of the twelve:

        http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199900/cmhansrd/vo001023/debtext/01023-25.htm

        “To whom do we owe our allegiance? My party is very vigorous in trying to get rid of people, and a long time ago when it was trying to get rid of Winston Churchill, he was asked to whom he owed his allegiance. He said first to his country, then to his constituency, and thirdly to his party.”

        Of course at that time the EU did not exist, and so Churchill had no need to position it anywhere in his order of priority.

        Ask that question now, and if MPs were to reply truthfully the great majority would put the EU as their primary allegiance; and whether Martin is replaced before or after the next election, it will be difficult to find a suitable candidate who still has an unambivalent commitment to the supremacy of our national Parliament.

  12. upbeatskeptic
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Does it just feel a little wrong to go after the Speaker like this, both politicans and media alike? Surely the role of Speaker has to command respect, quite independent of what one thinks of the present incumbent – the loss of such respect/loyalty will surely just politicise the role of Speaker even more than it already has been, and have effecting and turning the office into a partisan tool for whichever party has the votes to elect their preferred individual.

  13. upbeatskeptic
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    And please excuse the grammatical blindspots in that last post… new baby and lack of sleep!

  14. Matt
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I think you’re spot on, he was put there by labour MP’s and they will decide his fate.

    Mr Martin could have led the way this week, by apologising for the inadequate system and informing the country that he would lead the way to sort it out. Instead he comes across as crabby and petulant.

    I think your earlier idea of the government buying a block of flat, or a few different blocks in central London is a good idea.
    When parliament is in recess then they could be used as, a new 5 star hotel. (Upmarket way in which university halls of residence are used in the summer)

    It can’t be that hard to come up with a fair scheme .I travelled the world with BP and they had a first rate expenses scheme, structured and simple.

  15. Steve Tierney
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    I know that the normal situation is for the opposition to support the speaker.

    As important and worthwhile as some of these traditions are, when somebody is godawful at their job and doing ongoing damage, politicians should be willing to say so, openly.

    I still feel you should support this motion. It may be a divergence from the norm, but its the right thing to do in my opinion. It really doesn’t matter if you ‘have the power’ to remove him. Just that you support a motion you clearly agree with. I cannot see why, in good conscience, you don’t.

  16. mad shyguy
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Why not means test MPs? The Speaker is irrelevant to this scandal and the freedom of information act has done a good job for those who believe there is so much waste in politics.
    If after all the reviews, outside income is included then we should also means test MPs (ie not just income, investment income bit wealth too) to see if they qualify for allowances.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 15, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      I’m in favour of means-testing MPs.

      MPs merrily vote for OAPs to have to fill out means-testing forms to claim some state benefit, forms of such length and complexity that they often need help to fill them out, and quite often they find it so difficult and stressful that in the end they give up.

      Yet when MPs put in their expenses claims, nobody asks them whether they really need to be reimbursed by the taxpayer.

      • Kevin Lohse
        Posted May 16, 2009 at 9:07 am | Permalink

        What about that little signature stating that “these expenses were whooly and necessarily incurred in the execution of my Parliamentary duties………? And the fees office has refused all or part of a claim in the past – just not often enough.

        • Kevin Lohse
          Posted May 16, 2009 at 9:08 am | Permalink

          Sorry -wholly

  17. Lola
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    ER, nope. I do not think that you are being feeble. I, and I suspect many others, are relying on blokes like you, from both sides of the political divide, to make wise judgements for us in this time. We are not directly engaged in the business of politics and government. We put you there to work for us and we rely on your competence and judgement.

    So far your judgement (without any recourse to stupid rules) has been see to be entirely sound, so just you carry on doing what you do.

    It’s them other sort that we think are feeble. Well, feeble minded, and we all know who is top of the pops in that regard, don’t we?

  18. Stephen Southworth
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I heard that some Labour MPs are bringing forward their own motion of no confidence as they ‘couldn’t bear to sign a Tory one’. If this is true, it does somewhat support John’s argument that it would be best for him to stay out of it and leave it to the party in the majority to decide what, if anything, should happen to the speaker.

  19. If I tell you I will be sacked
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    “Appropriate behaviour” would be HM “having a word with the Chiefs of the Defence Staff” and arranging for a few tanks (assuming we still possess them) to be trundled out in major cities and pointing out to the idiots that the social experiment was now over and that HM was dissolving her government and an election was going to be held. The Army, Navy, RAF and Police would all be very happy at this….the populace would be indebted to their sovereign and sanity could return to the country, normality would quickly return. Gay ethnic outreach workers and scroungers might be upset ….but who cares? I am Scottish and find it deeply embarrassing that so many of these idiots are “posh jocks”.

  20. Frugal Dougal
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    John, I think you are entirely right to play the long game in this matter. Among many other things, I’m sure that Conservative agitation against the Speaker would be leapt upon as sectarian action by Labour (although this Speaker is easily the most party-political for many decades). And it’s their tending to short-term interests to the detriment of long-term ones that got us into our present messes in the first place.

  21. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    I just want a new Speaker , a newly elected House of Commons and a new government to clean up politics. So that means no more Michael Martin , no more sleazy MP’s on the take a la Blears et al and a government led by Mr Cameron who knows how angry the voters are and has a notion about how to deal with it. It ain’t just a broken society & broken economy that need mending – it is our broken political system that is also in dire need of repair.

    The Irish Parliament cut their perks and then armed with the moral authority they where able to slash spending & hike taxes as they could say that they where leading by example as they where sharing the pain of recession. We need this in the UK -having a Speaker who just gets cross with Labour & Lib Dem MP’s who make valid points while not having a clue how to restore Parliaments standing is not a good idea.

    Mr Martin sadly is not up to the job and we cannot hope to dig the political system out of the mire until we have a new Speaker.

    John – please just follow your common-sense instincts. If Mr Martin keeps going like this hopefully the Labour rebellion against him will grow and there will be enough votes for a change. If Labour MP’s keep the present Speaker then shame on them for putting Party before Country.

  22. pat allan
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    One good thing to have come out of the present parliamentary fiasco is that the general public are becoming more aware of the system that runs this once great country, and seem to be getting into the habit of venting their spleen, a bit like our European neighbours the French. But now that Michael Martin’s reign is thankfully over, could it be time to choose someone completely unrelated to Westminster to hold the post of Speaker of the House? Who would be an ideal candidate to inherit the crown? How about Alan Sugar? The ratings would go through the roof to hear him bellow “You’re fired!” at some scoundrel on Prime Minister’s Questions. Or Joanna Lumley? She’d make short change of any MEP politicians who are still unwilling to allow details of their allowances to be published, because we need to see them. Now. Before the elections preferably. Personally I think Simon Cowell should host a reality “Find a Speaker” comp so we could all join in the fun. We’ve earned it.

    Pat Allan

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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