Monday, May 18, 2009

Mr Speaker to Speak; But What?

Morten Morland from The Times 18 May 2009 Morten Morland from The Times 18 May 2009
Michael Martin the Speaker of the House of Commons has announced he will address MPs later on today. With growing support across all parties for a vote of no confidence in him how he handles this and what he says will be of absolute importance.

Yesterday Nick Clegg broke with the convention of the Leaders of the main parties not criticising the Speaker when on the Andrew Marr show he called for him to go saying:

"I do not think the Speaker should be made a scapegoat...for the individual failings of many MPs.

Equally I do not think we can afford the luxury of a Speaker, who is supposed to embody Westminster, who has been dragging his feet on transparency and greater accountability in the way MPs receive their expenses."

The reason Clegg gave for breaking this convention is that the system is broken and Parliament needs a clean start. The people are expecting that but Martin has done all he can to avoid transparency even taking legal action to prevent Freedom of Information requests being made public, as well as his recent attack on Kate Hoey in the chamber.

But the expenses issue Nick says is merely the tip of the iceberg that is threatening to sink Parliament. He went further calling for the electorate to have to right to call an election of any member found to have done wrong by the Committee on Standards. Also calling for a cutting in the size and power of Whitehall and giving new freedoms including money raising to local communities. Also the need for a written constitution is required. As Nick said there are all these conventions and unwritten rules that hog tie too often Parliamentary reform the very things that lead to lack of understanding and comprehension from the public.

So Nick is the only party leader who is grasping the depth that this issue is going and prepared to stand up to say and do what needs to be said and done. He is leading from the front with decisiveness, authority and clarity. The others are trying to look like they are aware of the need for change but are trying to appease too much their own MPs through fudging around the issues and ignoring the people who's representatives the Members are.

However, it is how Mr Speaker Martin uses his public utterances later that is crucial. If he comes out fighting aiming to cling on without observing his surroundings he will merely be like Captain Smith firing up the engines to continue to run Parliament head on into the iceberg. What the fall out of him staying on and fighting the groundswell of loss of support may well have equally Titanic repercussions.

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