The Speaker decides to stay?

We read this morning that the Speaker will today make a statement about MPs expenses. He should also make a statement about his own position.

Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems have called on him to go. Some senior Labour figures have expressed unease. The Conservative leadership have made clear that any motion of No Confidence is a free vote issue for Conservative MPs, and many are likely to vote against the Speaker. This is an unprecedented position for a Speaker to be in.

Along with most Opposition MPs I did not vote for Michael Martin to become Speaker. Many like me accepted the will of the Labour majority as our democratic duty. Instead of winning us over to his tenure he has lost support by the way he conducts the business of the House. Today he needs to tell us what is going to change, and what his own personal plans are. It cannot go on as it has been.

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18 Comments

  1. APL
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    JR: “Instead of winning us over to his tenure he has lost support by the way he conducts the business of the House.”

    The whole expenses debacle is tailor made to suite the PARTY*. It doesn’t matter which PARTY, both have been able to use it, on the one hand to appease rebellious MPs and on the other hand as a tool the whips can use to threaten MPs.

    It has been a tool that the PARTY* has used with enthusiasm to anesthetize the commons.

    I thought it was just that we had nearly a hundred jobs at cabinet level, which is unnecessary but useful to provide leverage for the executive.

    Please don’t be fooled, it is not in the PARTY interest to see a transparent expenses system.

    The Speaker has used the system just like the whips to promote government business. He should go because he has been compromised and because he is incapable of being impartial.

    *Wasn’t it Lord Denning who warned us of the ‘elected dictatorship’?

    • jean baker
      Posted May 18, 2009 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      According to reports, a Labour Minister ‘rubber stamped’ the claims. Do you envisage him being held accountable for that which appears to be an ‘open purse policy’ ?

      It seems more than coincidental that amid reports of infighting within Labour & Joanna Lumley’s recent coup, ‘select’ details of expense claims are “leaked” to the media, including Hazel Blears, who reportedly caused embarrassment to Brown following his U-tube debut.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 18, 2009 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

      Maybe; but Lord Hailsham definitely issued that warning, and events since then have proved him right.

  2. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    Do you know what?
    It makes me proud to be British when things get so bad.
    Why?
    Because then we show our mettle and start to fix it.

  3. Kevin Lohse
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood. I look forward to your own statement on MPs expenses.

  4. Colin D.
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    It’s a fat lot of use Martin telling us his ‘solution’ when he is a large part of the ‘problem’.

  5. alan jutson
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    If the Speaker wants to say he will go, but go at the next election, then the motion of No Confidence should immediately be tabled and voted upon.

    This Speaker has been a disaster for Parliament and its proper workings, and he should be sacked and go immediately.

    The fact that this has not happened before is irrelevent, perhaps we have never had such a lousy Speaker before.

    The more we hear about this man (if you can belive the Press) the worse it seems to get. I am convinced that when he has gone those who were fearful of his power will spill some more beans.

  6. Robin
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    John, putting tradition of Parliament above the reputation of Parliament – isn’t very wise because it – means the tradition of Parliament will become disreputable.

  7. Donna W
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    It is procedures, precedents, protocols and a belief that any MP is automatically ‘honourable’ that have got us into this mess.

    The protocol that the Opposition do not criticise the Speaker is one that should, under these circumstances, be ignored.

    David Cameron and the Shadow Cabinet should make it clear that Martin does not have their confidence.

  8. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    If Speaker Martin takes the Sir Victor Blank line and states his intention is to go at the next election will you see that decision (as you did in Sir Victor’s case) “as a good one” as in this case MPs will not have to decide whether to support him? I sincerely hope not. Given the money he will lose by going now, said by some commentators to be £100,000, I don’t expect this particular turkey to vote for Christmas. Of course Conservative MPs should have a “free” vote on a motion of No Confidence as I keep saying this is a matter for the House of Commons members NOT for political parties.

  9. brian kelly
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    As they have done with so much of our parliamentary and constitutional traditions Labour, under the Blair and Brown project, ignored, as I understand it, a perfectly good and working tradition by not allowing an opposition MP as speaker. They have much to answer for in the ongoing destruction of this country. Cool heads need to rule now in order to chart the right way forward.

  10. pipesmoker
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    He should set an example and go and if not he should be pushed?

  11. Andy
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    APL – no, it was Lord Halisham. He was right though.

    • APL
      Posted May 18, 2009 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      Andy: “no, it was Lord Halisham.”

      Thanks for the correction.

  12. Cliff.
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I do not think Mr Martin has been the greatest speaker we have had, but I feel he is being set up as a scapegoat to carry the can for the whole of the expenses scandal. He may technically be responsible for the fees office, but there appears to me to be joint failures within the fees office and amongst some MPs. Some MPs have made dubious claims but the fees office appear to have paid them with little or no scrutiny. Further, if some of the suggestions some MPs have made are true, it could be said that officials within the fees office have advised MPs on how to exploit the system for maximum gain. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
    It is a sad time for British democracy and our parliament.

  13. Richard
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    It is essential for the re-establishment of the reputation and authority of Parliament that the Speaker of the House of Commons is seen to be an impartial chairman of debate. Mr Martin has clearly failed in this most important of duties. MPs must therefore force him to go. The formula of allowing him to stay until the election – unless its going to be next month – does not work.

  14. alan jutson
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Have just seen the Speakers statement on TV.

    So he makes an apology for himself and everyone else, askes MP’s to moderate any further claims, and wants a discussion with all of the Party Leaders behind closed doors.

    Have no problem with the behind closed doors bit, if it is to get a workable and sensible solution.

    I do have a problem with the Speaker continuing in his position, given his responsibility for the running of the past system, and attempting to block transparency with all of the legal powers he could muster (at the tax payers expense).

    The No Confidence motion tabled, seems to me to have left everyone in absolute confusion.
    The Speaker had to take advice from the Clerk (nothing wrong in that) which was a surprise given that he knew it was being tabled.

    I am not very familiar with Parliamentary proceedure, but as I now understand it, this Motion now depends upon the Governments willingness or not to Debate it.

    John, having watched this on TV, I sense a real anger here from the opposition Party Members.

    Your earlier comments on this Blog, that you thought an Opposition motion of no confidence in the Speaker would cause a Government defence of his position, to me now looks like being the case.

    If Gordon Brown does not give a free vote to Labour members, or does not allow a sensible and proper debate on this motion, then I think it will be another nail in his Political demise.

    A General Election cannot come soon enough.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 18, 2009 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

      Correct; a general election cannot come soon enough, not least because David Cameron has ensured that it must be preceded by the second referendum in Ireland.

      He has, in effect, said that the Lisbon Treaty must be in force before he can be allowed to become Prime Minister, because otherwise he’d be compelled to put it to a British referendum.

  • 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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