Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Monday 18 May 2009

Absolutely astonishing scenes in the chamber

I have not read or seen any media or blog comment on what has just happened in the chamber. This is just my immediate view.

The Speaker's statement was completely inadequate. He seemed to just be saying he would get the great and the good together and sort it all out. He apologised and said the whole house bears responsibility for what has happened which needed to be said but was an absolute bare minimum. He also seemed to be trying to say that he had been trying to sort the problem out since last year (3rd July motion that was defeated) when the whole way through he has thrown up obstacles and done everything in his power to avoid transparency.

There then began a bizarre 10 or so minutes where member were invited to give points of order. I am no expert of the vagaries of parliamentary process but it seemed to be that almost every point that was raised was inadmissible in some way shape or form. There were several direct attacks on the Speaker, not least from Douglas Carswell. the Speaker seemed to be unsure if the motion tabled for tomorrow was a Substantive motion or an Early Day Motion. He had to check with cone of the clerks and the response seemed somewhat hedged and almost like it was designed to save the Speaker from embarrassment. You could actually hear Douglas Carswell angrily arguing with the Speaker off-mic that he was wrong. There were several other interventions that attacked him and few that supported him.

There was an astonishing attack from a senior Tory (I think it was Sir Patrick McCormack) who said he were in a constitutional crisis and he reluctantly said it could not be resolved with the current speaker remaining in the chair.

Near the end, Susan Kramer asked if an opposition day could be moved forward to allow a debate on the future of the Speaker if the Government would not allow time for one. He obfuscated and answered a different question.

This whole farago to me just demonstrates exactly what is wrong with parliament in the first place. All the traditions and conventions just stifle debate and there is clearly no mechanism to be able to deal with what was needed today. An honest discussion about the Speaker and preferably he would have seen that he no longer had support and stepped down. Or was voted our through a no confidence motion.

Instead this is going to drag on now. It looks like Martin is trying to put obstacles in the way and also has set a meeting for 48 hours from now which he will chair which would require him to still be Speaker after tomorrow. What a mess.

Somebody needs to get a grip on this now. I think Cameron and Brown have to follow Nick Clegg's lead and call for him to go. If they cannot bring themselves do this publicly they should do it in private and insist he goes. Today. Otherwise they should threaten to go public. This is surely his last chance to go with any sort of dignity before he is ultimately defenestrated in an awful public manner that nobody wants and he does not deserve.

Mr Martin, please resign. Now.

UPDATE: I have just e-mailed the Speaker asking him to resign and you can do so too:


Bernard Salmon said...

Great minds think alike - I have also just emailed the Speaker to urge him to go and posted his email address on my blog so others can do the same. The man is a disgrace.

Unknown said...

Although I agree that Michael Martin has made many mistakes in his role as Speaker, I think that more blame is being placed on him for the current situation than is probably due, by people who want to shift the focus from themselves. The behaviour of MPs towards him yesterday in parliament was more like a mob than the reaction of our elected representatives admitting how many of them have contributed to the disgrace of government. I am sure that the current Speaker will not remain in his position for long, but I think that he should not be pushed out as a scapegoat.

Mark Thompson said...

Interesting point Judy.

From my perspective he has been in the post for 9 years in which time he has done his utmost to prevent transparency. He was all at sea yesterday and I am afraid he confirmed a lot of people's suspicions that he is just not up to the job. Nick Clegg is right when he says that Martin is too wrapped up in the old way of doing things and need to make way for someone new.

However I completely agree that he should not be made a scapegoat. The problems run much deeper than just who the Speaker in and we must not allow this to be spun as some sort of solution to the problem when he goes. It is the start of the process that needs to be done, not the end.

Unknown said...

I totally agree with that Mark.

I think that the speaker and all MPs who are found to have abused the parliamentary system should be brought to account properly. (Paying back over-claimed expenses is a start, but if it is only the actual amount of the expenses that are paid back, it still means that those MPs have had an interest-free loan from the taxpayers for what still appears to me to be fraudulent misuse of the system.)

My main disgust with the behaviour in the House of Commons on Monday was the way that so many MPs turned on the speaker as if doing so would put them in a better light. What kind of example are any of them (MPs and speaker alike) giving to the public? Do they really think that this is fitting behaviour for the people governing our country?