The Speaker departs

Well done to Douglas Carswell and to the Labour MPs who supported his motion. It was part of the process to change Speakers.

I hope readers can now see the wisdom of the judgement made by David Cameron and the front bench. If the Speaker was to go it was important he was not brought down by the official opposition party. He was brought down by a growing feeling throughout the House that he had to go. If he had not resigned today, more of us would have signed the Carswell motion, making sure the new names were balanced between parties. Every day that went by with the motion not for debate it would have weakened the Speaker further.

It was never possible to change the Speaker on Conservative votes. Labour had to see the case for change. Reluctanctly some of them did.

It is too early to say who will emerge. Frank Field and George Young are the current favourites, but there are several others who fancy the job.


  1. Donna W
    May 19, 2009

    Martin should NOT be rewarded with a move to the Lords. That’s already (bad -ed) enough – without another addition to the ranks.

    May 19, 2009

    We CAN appreciate the sense in your tactics and those of DC. All’s well that ends well – well Reform Round 1 anyway.!
    As we blogged earlier this should provide the springboard for root & branch reform of the Parliamentary system and Westminster’s attitude to good governance.

    We remain cynically convinced that Speaker Martin did not officially resign until he had secured his compensatory retirement package which will no doubt come to light before long. However in this instance we feel it’s a small price to pay so we can all move forward.

    What does strike us once again though is that the press corps, to a man, never mention the financial factors that might well be at the heart of these political dilemmas. Is it – as we once asked Simon Jenkins – that they prefer to believe they are covering a noble art rather than a sometimes grubby commercial business?


  3. Lola
    May 19, 2009

    I heard Gordon Brown on the radio banging on about the need for ‘independent regulation’ of MP’s expenses and remuneration.

    I flatly do not want this. ‘Regulation’, and the excess of it, is what has got us into this mess in the first place. This universal misplaced faith in ‘experts’ is symptomatic of all that is wrong with New Labour’s ghastly idea of how to organise society. Organise it along the lines of some settled idea created by ‘experts’. It is clause 4.4 by regulation.

    What I want is men, and women, of independent mind and capable of making professional judgements about what is correct and what is not correct. I want Parliamnent to be and remain sovereign in the country. I do not want MP’s to be continually engaged in a box ticking compliance culture that has so bedevilled my area of business and directly led to the failure of banks and the colapse in savings.

    Experts only know what is the current consensus. The rest of us operating in a free market are always ahead of them, testing and challlenging the status quo and developing a new paradigm. Experts, as used by New Labour, are all about limiting our freedoms and making us fit an idealised, and completely unworkable idea of what about 300 labour MPs think is the way we will operate.

    The whole New Labour project was all about forcing this agenda and designing a society that made election success for them guaranteed. It had nothing to do with running the country properly or making sure that public money was spent wisely or that troops were properly equipped for actions that New Labour got them involved in, but all about ensuring a continuing New Labour success at election time. And the main weapon they used to implement this agenda was the unelected unaccountable quango ‘regulator’.

    Stop them doing more of this in Parliament. Stop them now.

  4. ManicBeancounter
    May 19, 2009

    I think that parliament has handled this well and hope that the new speaker will symbolise a break from what has gone before. The confidence in the traditions of the the office and Speaker has been rocked. The current speaker lacked a needed perspective that the office entails. It was this very lack of perspective meant that he was not able to recognise that his continuance in the post was undermining the office. Yet it is that sort of perspective – to understand, and then redefine, the perceived role of the Speaker of the House of Commons within the context of both the great traditions of the past and of current events – that is needed at this time. By having the resignation weeks or even months too late, the new speaker will have a herculean task in repairing the damage to the role.

    1. SJB
      May 20, 2009

      It seems to me that Parliament only ‘acted’ after the Telegraph published details of MPs’ expenses. Had the information not been leaked then it seems likely that a lot of the more embarrassing material would have been redacted prior to the scheduled release in July. The cartoon by Matt in today’s Telegraph is spot on: two MPs are walking outside Parliament and one says to the other: “As soon as I saw what I’d been up to, I knew the Speaker had to go.”

  5. Denis Cooper
    May 19, 2009

    The first, and indispensable, criterion, should be a unambivalent, unqualified and completely unshakeable commitment to the supremacy of Parliament.

    No ifs and buts, no convoluted schizoid Murphyisms about Parliament remaining sovereign because it could still vote for the UK to leave the EU, but while we are in the EU of course the primacy of EU law over UK law is a well-established principle, see Column 1197 here:

    Applying that first test should narrow the field considerably.

  6. thespecialone
    May 19, 2009

    Not you John??? That was a joke (sorry!). I think FF seems to be favourite in blogosphere.

  7. Paul Coombes
    May 19, 2009

    I am glad to see this Speaker depart but I fear he may wreak much damage before he goes. As I understand Gordon Brown the intention is to create an independent body to oversee MPs remuneration. This would be a disastrous step to take. You cannot create a body that has control over the very body that is meant to be in control. Consider what would you do if this new body suggested some change to your remuneration that you disagreed with? How could you change their decision if they are independent?
    If you are capable of creating laws then you are capable of determining a fair method of paying MPs and vice versa. If you are not capable of determining a fair method of paying MPs then you are not capable of running the country. You cannot have it the way Gordon Brown wants it. Please, defeat this stupid proposition which will emasculate the entire house and hasten its demise.

  8. Paul
    May 19, 2009

    I must say I’m not over happy about the setting up of a new quango to oversee MP’s pay and expenses. If we can’t trust MP’s to manage a few £1000 how the hell are we supposed to trust them to run the country’s finances.

    Anyway I am putting myself forward as Chair of the new body is it to be called OFTrough ?

    If he wants the job then Frank Field is the right man, although a shame to waste his talent and knowledge on welfare reforms.

  9. eeyore
    May 19, 2009

    Mr Redwood: The Prime Minister’s scheme for a quango to supervise Parliament and dole out rewards and punishments to MPs seems simply horrifying. The House of Commons belongs to the people, not to the Executive. What else was the Civil War fought over? What else was the Glorious Revolution about? And why is Mr Brown, an utterly exploded figure without a shred of democratic credibility, voted for by no one outside Kirkaldy, a man who ruins whatever he touches, a deluded fantasist imminently destined for the dustbin of history, presuming not just to tinker with the edges of the Constitution but rewrite it at its very core? You and your fellow MPs must do all you can to sink this dreadful scheme and expose it for the naked power grab it is. These are momentous days. The burden you bear is the burden that Pym and Hampden bore. Don’t let us down.

  10. Brian Tomkinson
    May 19, 2009

    On my limited knowledge, Frank Field would be my choice. I hear that Labour MPs are backing John Bercow. I should hope that he would NOT be elected.

  11. Jingouk
    May 19, 2009

    No, you did not stand as a parliamentarian – you cowered while the men did the work.

    Reply: As I explained at the time there had to be a wish by enough Labour MPs. I salute Douglas Craswell for leading the camapign. It was most important when he put his motion down it was balanced between the parties.

  12. jpkatlarge
    May 19, 2009

    What is really important now is that the House does not cave in to the Executive’s plan to take away authority if it can. Gordon Brown’s approach should be resisted, however popular it is made out to be by the media. All his bluster for immediacy needs to be tempered by reflection, and should be made to wait until the new Speaker is in place. It is the existing Speaker who has wounded the authority of the office, and listening to Brown today, it seems as though Speaker Martin has connived in this as his final disservice to the office and the House.

    The House is currently as weak as it has ever been in my lifetime, and the executive seems ready to pounce and weaken it further. You must resist, however much opprobrium this brings from the media. Actually much of the media may support you if the campaign is done well.

    May 19, 2009

    We confess to feeling miffed after the PM’s evening press conference. Has he not pre-empted Kelly’s report with all those detailed proposals?
    Yes there must be some interim ‘holding’ arrangements but surely Sir Christopher should have announced these by now with a date on which he will report. ‘Catch-up’ Brown is so anxious to regain some initiative and momentum that again he’s in danger of going off half-cock – that’s even if he’s in a position to be heeded at all by MPs, the media and the electorate.

    And does he not see how unattractive and demeaning his boastful approach is? ” ‘I’ was the first to notice/say/announce” etc etc. Apart from being blatantly untrue it’s one of the reasons he is so disconnected from the public.

    Our favoured scenario would be for a general election on Thursday October 8th (assuming we cannot follow the sensible Australian procedure of a Saturday polling day).

    This would:

    a) Give time to select/de-select candidates

    b) Give MPs an unusually hard-working summer recess to prepare.

    c) Enable the Queen to open Parliament in November with a new program from her new government.

    d) Prevent the waste of an entire 12 months of government inactivity and trough-swilling by retiring members.


    1. Denis Cooper
      May 20, 2009

      October is when the Irish will be voting again on the Lisbon Treaty, most probably, and our general election must wait on that.

  14. Oranjepan
    May 19, 2009

    What wisdom exactly was that Cameron had to offer, to sit on his hands and not announce his feelings whether the speaker should stay or go, thereby letting Clegg steal a march?

    Cameron has been caught on the hop over this and we shall see if it does him any noticable damage rather than enabling him to make additional gains.

    Reply: I do not agree. He was wise not to call for his removal. As I have explained before, the Speaker would not have gone if it was Tories calling for his head. This week the mood shifted in Labour, which was what brought this setof events about.

  15. Mark
    May 19, 2009

    “more of us would have”……….of course. You just didn’t until you didn’t have to.

  16. oldrightie
    May 19, 2009

    A long overdue improvement for Parliament. This Speaker was always out of his depth and a monument to why the Trade Union movement remains in the past. As a working class born fellow I cringe when I witness the dumbing down socialism demands of any society they get their claws into. This past 12 years have seen us descend into a laughing stock in the world. Just study Miliband’s travels recently.

  17. Terry Nuttall
    May 20, 2009

    If Frank Field stands, I hope he gets it. Regardless of which party is in government, I believe he would be fair.

    1. alan jutson
      May 20, 2009

      Agreed Frank Field is a good candidate, he deserves it, if for no other reason than he was prepared to put his head above the parapet for the past few years and speak out.
      The man seems to be a man of principle, rare these days.
      BUT that may be his problem, as well as his strength, as he upset many Labour Mp’s by going against the Party line.

      Also he is a Labour Politician, that will make 3 Labour Speakers in a row. !!!!!!!

      Perhaps it is felt by the Liberals and Conservatives that this is one Labour Speaker too far. It would be sad for him that Mr Martin’s election to Speaker, may mean his chances are reduced by the simple fact that Labour have used up their turn.

  18. Mike Stallard
    May 20, 2009

    All I can say is this: well done the lot of you! It is magnificent to see, at long, long long last, some democracy and common sense at work. I think everyone in the country wants to think that this could be the beginning of getting our well loved Parliament back on track after the years of New Labour.

    PS. While all this is going on, there is, apparently, Deflation going on. Why? I thought we were in for inflation. It would be lovely if you could explain this in your usual clear way.

  19. Monoi
    May 20, 2009

    I dont get it.

    Who cares in the end if the speaker had not gone because of labour votes? That would have damaged labour even more had they protected him. It would also have shown that the tories have been chastised by the whole business, and have rediscovered some principles had they supported Carswell in numbers.

    Since the only real way to repair the damage is to go to the polls, which Cameron cannot make happen, it would have been the next best thing.

    By the way, am I the only one who found the grovelling and general friendly behaviour towards this (unflattering remark) speaker most repelling in light of the recent expenses scandal?

  20. TonyP
    May 20, 2009


    I read that Michael Martin has a very substantial pension pot. If this is not reduced it is as much of a disgrace as Sir Fred Goodwin’s.

    I trust it will not be automatically granted. The man has been sacked!

  21. a-tracy
    May 21, 2009

    Bercows a young man isn’t he? How do they replace him as speaker if he’s got another 20 to 30 years of work left in him? What has he done for such a reward/promotion? If Labour are supporting him over people with 25 or more years parliamentary experience what does that say about their judgement? I suppose if he turns out to be a bad speaker in conservative members eyes his local party could de-select him at the first opportunity?

    If an MP becomes a speaker just five years before they retire, do they then retire on 3/4 of their final salary as speaker, rather than career average? This posturing is very interesting, perhaps with such a Labour majority you should support the one you least like 😉

  22. Bazman
    May 21, 2009

    Back to the tin bashing in Glasgow for the speaker then? I wonder if he can still remember how to do the ductwork transition of square to round?
    Never leaves you Mike and you will be able to bore everyone about how you where once the speaker in the house of commons. I have heard some equally fantastic tales carrying out my trade.

  23. Michael
    June 19, 2009


    I hope you consider voting for John Bercow in the Speaker election. Much better to have an independent minded Tory backbencher then another Labour Speaker. Not to mention the fact that Beckett only wants the job as a consolation prize for being kicked out of the Government 2 weeks ago.

Comments are closed.