Monday, February 25, 2008

Why Gorbals Mick must stay - for now

I last wrote about Mr Speaker Martin on this blog in November 2006, after he had blocked David Cameron from asking pointless questions about who Tony Blair would be endorsing in the Labour leadership election.

On that occasion, I wrote that while I sympathised with Martin as a victim of the snobocracy which seeks to belittle anyone from a working-class background who rises above his station, the media hostility towards him was entirely explicable in view of his legendary acts of pettiness towards our profession in the past.

Furthermore, the cirumstances of his election in 2000 showed the Labour Party at its very worst and, like much else that happened in the party between 1994 and 2007, was a direct consequence of the Blair-Brown feud.

Blair stumbled into it by appearing to support the election of a Lib Dem speaker - his favoured candidate was in fact Ming Campbell. It provoked a backlash from backbench Labour MPs which was then gleefully stoked-up by the Brownites in order to deliver a bloody nose to Mr Tony.

One MP, a very close ally of the then Chancellor, said to me afterwards: "It was a chance for us working-class boys to put one over on the public schooboys." That was basically code for: "It was a chance for Brown to put one over on Blair."

Had No 10 not made the mistake of seeking to involve itself in an election that has always been a jealously-guarded prerogative of MPs, it is doubtful in my view that Martin would ever have been elected.

However, while I don't think the election of Mr Speaker Martin was exactly the best days' work the House of Commons ever did, the important thing about it was that it was a House of Commons decision, rather than one imposed by the executive.

And that is what is troubling me about the current wave of demands for the Speaker to go - that if he were to accede to them, it would set an extraordinarily bad precedent over one of the few offices in our constitution which is genuinely independent of the government.

If such a precedent were to be established, a future government could use that precedent to get rid of a Speaker it didn't like. That in turn would remove one of the last bastions of House of Commons independence.

For this reason, and this reason alone, I support Michael Martin's right to retire at a time of his own choosing. Although I also happen to think he should choose to go, as Betty Boothroyd did in 2000, before rather than after the next general election.

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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Martin needs to reimburse the taxpayer for the £4,000 his wife has ripped off in taxis (its all of 50 yards from the HoL to westminster underground station)and also reinburse the money he has claimed for his non existrent motgage.
That would be a good start.

Andy W said...

Hi Paul,

I thought the real problem with Mr Martin is that he isn't acting independently of government. When was the last time he forced the PM to actually answer a question at PMQs for example?

The position is far too important to be partisan, the current hysterics on the Labour side demonstrates this position is now partisan. - a typical New Labour wheeze.

lettersfromatory said...

I think your suggestion that Mr Martin is "genuinely independent of the government" is cause for contention and is one of the main reasons why he should be kicked out. Allowing such a biased Speaker to continue in his role is not acceptable.

Greater Manchester Fabians said...

What do you think of the national strategy for housing in an ageing society ?

http://gtrmancfabians.blogspot.com/2008/02/facing-up-to-future.html

Or is this a policy free zone?

skipper said...

Paul
Just to say I rather wish Ming had got the gig as Speaker; it would have given him a wonderful platform for his personality- firm but fair- and he would probably still be there.

Persoanlly, I 've got used to Gorbal's Mick and quite like him now but there is too much static in the air re his expenses and, along with Clare Short, I rec=kon he should go, certainly by tehe next election.

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