Theories on the Speaker
Why has the Speaker - whose problems were initially greeted with almost complete silence - suddenly got so many friends in Westminster? Here's some competing - and, occasionally, overlapping theories:
1. Michael Martin acts as shop steward for MPs and many fear that the media will come for them next.
Today the former trade union bruiser, John Spellar MP, declared that it was time to "stop this nonsense now" and insisted that his constituents had shown no interest in the issue of MPs’ expenses. It's worth noting that Spellar is now chairing the House of Commons advisory panel on members' allowances. He speaks for many.
2. MPs are scared to cross the Speaker.
When Nick Clegg became Lib Dem leader he said he'd represent the people's interests against those of the Westminster village. Today he told a press conference that "Worryingly, (it) looks like something of a witch-hunt against him," before saying that he trusted Martin to carry out the "complete overhaul" needed to the rules governing MPs’ expenses as soon as possible.
Clegg will have had to weigh up the consequences for him of attacking someone who influences the selection of speakers and amendments in the Commons as well as the reaction of his own MPs if their expenses become highlighted.
3. The Tories want the next Speaker to be one of theirs.
On the old "buggins turn" principle, the Tories expected Betty Boothroyd to be replaced as Speaker by a Tory MP. Michael Martin ensured that didn't happen. If the Tories plotted against him now Labour MPs may react by ensuring that the leading Tory candidate, Sir George Young, loses again.
We await words today from the Conservatives who, up until now are represented by the Shadow Home Secretary David Davis who remarked yesterday that "Clearly he has got problems". David Cameron is, I'm told, very busy.
4. Michael Martin is the victim of class-based sneering by elitist journalists.
If this was ever the case (Quentin Letts of the Mail is blamed for inventing the phrase "Gorbals Mick") it is a hard claim to sustain given that the Sunday Mirror has led the recent allegations against the Speaker and calls for Martin to go have come from papers across the political spectrum.
5. Praise may be the best way to persuade Martin to go.
Senior frontbenchers from both sides of the House have told me that the Speaker must not be driven from office by a media campaign but that he also must not stay on until the next Parliament. Thus, they argue, silence or support is, actually, the way to see the back of him.
Oh yes. I forgot. There is a sixth reason articulated by the prime minister this morning.
6. "Michael Martin has been a very, very good Speaker."
Take your pick.