We need windows as well as doors
"Westminster cannot operate like some gentlemen's club where the members make up the rules and operate them among themselves."
Without effective scrutiny, institutions rot.
In the City of London and the city of Westminster, the two grand neighbours that retain power in our capital, the imperious pillars buttressing our systems of finance and politics have crumbled before our eyes.
As they toppled, the curtain was torn away and, as in the Wizard of Oz, we saw that the "great and the good" were really no better than the rest of us.
In some ways, worse. Shielded from the harsh disinfectant of publicity, disease and infection had spread like swine flu.
Amid the gloom, too many politicians and bankers had become blind to the greed and corruption. Now pallid bodies stumble into the light, mumbling apologies with heads bowed.
But where was the Grub Street gang when it mattered? Where was I? Journalists have some questions of their own to answer, I suspect.
With some honourable exceptions, the Parliament press lobby, of which I was briefly a card-carrying member a decade ago, was too close to see what was happening. The rest of the pack was too far away.
The scandals of sleazy spin doctors and dishonourable members which have so shocked the wider populace were woven so artfully into the fabric of the Palace that those who walked its corridors never noticed.
The gilded traditions which gave authority and mystery to our institutions were tinsel that distracted eyes from the decay. A dash of ermine, an ounce of history and a golden coach possess almost magical qualities.
The Speaker, in his black and gold robe with lace frills and jabot, is the "Presiding Officer" of the House of Commons, the man or woman with a hand on the tiller of our democracy. He or she chairs the body that appoints staff, determines their salaries, and supervises the administration of the House. The Speaker shapes the debates that decide the law of our land.
And yet, outside the Westminster village and before this week, how many would even have heard of Michael Martin? His power, his strengths and weaknesses are all but invisible to the public who are not given the chance to interrogate him - even at the ballot box. To this day, those who might conceivably ask the tricky questions - lobby journalists or MPs - either cannot or dare not.
It has been a similar story in the Square Mile. With again a few notable exceptions, no-one was publicly challenging the ways of the financial world - taking crazy risks with other people's money while trousering vast sums. To do so would be to risk ridicule - and who wants to look like a fool?
I remember being initiated into the press lobby at Westminster and being quite shocked by all the etiquette and procedures. To ask the question "why?" was to show yourself up as naive and unworldly.
The pomp and grandeur, protocol and tradition that frame our financial and political affairs were designed to inspire respect and trust in institutions. But now the respect and trust have been so trashed, the trappings of power appear gaudy and cheap.
The spell has been broken.
Can we re-lay the foundations of our financial and political institutions for the 21st Century? Can we rebuild the trust and respect, brick by brick? As we try, perhaps we should remember that windows are as important as doors.