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Theories on the Speaker

Nick Robinson | 12:59 UK time, Monday, 25 February 2008

Michael Martin and his wife MaryWhy 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.


  • 1.
  • At 01:17 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Colin, Berkshire wrote:

My Theories:

1) Party Political - He is Labour and a Scot.

2) Party Political - Strong "support" by Labour means that David Cameron is left on his own if he wants to criticise; it makes his position more difficult.

3) MPs self preservation/self interest.

  • 2.
  • At 01:20 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Ian Carey wrote:

Whether the money paid to the Speaker, or any MP for that matter has been claimed in accordance with the rules or not, the whole issue of expenses and allowances must be investigated. To the general public the impression is one of systemic corruption. The issue of expenses and allowances must be looked at by a completely independent body, any findings made public and in the future ALL allowances and expenses must be controlled independently. The government has to be seen to be whiter than white.

  • 3.
  • At 01:24 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Jonathan Laird wrote:

Recently it seems we have been glimpsing the seedy underbelly of the Westminster village in what appears to be a form of officially tolerated corruption. No country worth its salt can tolerate even the slightest whiff of the cancer we call corruption. The whole issue of MPs' "expenses" needs to be desperately looked into.

  • 4.
  • At 01:24 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Pyers Symon wrote:

Well it isn't 6... personally I think its because MPs of all parties don't want their dodgy expence rackets being looked at too finely and are closing ranks behind GM

  • 5.
  • At 01:25 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • paul reynolds wrote:

The Today Programme reported the government asking us all to be upfront and keep out of the grey economy.
What incentive is it to be asked to do this by ministers who are less than upfront with their own affairs.
Do they not think that leading by example would be a good starting point?

  • 6.
  • At 01:29 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • J H Wells wrote:

So once again our MPs disregard the public interest. They are only in it for themselves. Why are they surprised at the public disinterest in politics. The question is What are MPs for?

  • 7.
  • At 01:33 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Tom FD wrote:

When Gordon comes up with rubbish like that it's a wonder that he expects people to believe anything he says!

Seems to me he said that to triangulate the Tories - making it look like a purely partisan issue (the lamentable abandonment of the rotation convention really doesn't help matters - Martin's Labour-biased performance as Speaker likewise), sour grapes, etc, when the fact of the matter is he's a terrible Speaker who should never have been put in that position in the first place.

  • 8.
  • At 01:35 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Russell Holmstoel wrote:

Sounds like they all have an element of truth.
If this was a plc, we, the shareholders, would demand a thorough overhaul of the whole system and an independent audit. And that is exactly what the situation requires. Our problem is the board has no reason to play ball.

  • 9.
  • At 01:44 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • William Campbell wrote:

I'm curious about the supposed application of the "buggins turn" priciple to the speakership of the Commons.

Some Tories used this argument when Michael Martin was elected to the post and they wanted one of their own.

It is true that since the 1960s Speakers had alternated between the main parties, but for very much longer, the convention has been that the speaker has come from the government party. The first Labour speaker was only elected in the 1965.

The only break with that longer-standing tradition was when Betty Boothroyd won a contested election in 1992 with the support of a large number of Conservative MPs, including ministers - just after John Major and the Tories had scraped through to their fourth term. Her election rather than Michael Martin's was the break with normal practice.

  • 10.
  • At 01:44 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Brian Box wrote:

Does Gordon Brown count as a friend of the Speaker? You quote him as sayinh `has been' not `is'.

  • 11.
  • At 01:47 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • A Heywood wrote:

It's one rule for the politicians and another for the taxpayers that pay their wages i.e. US. We get squeezed by rising fuel bills, council taxes, rail fares and mortgage interest rates whilst they get free business class air-miles, free taxis for their spouses to go shopping and expenses paid on their mortage-free homes. Something's rotten in Westminster.

  • 12.
  • At 01:48 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Anthony J wrote:

There will now be no let up for the Speaker, MP's have opening criticised the media, this is just not on. Criticise one you criticise all, just as Mr Robinsons outburst did on the Today programme this morning.

The same happened last week when the police criticise the way the newspapers reported the young peoples deaths in the Bridgend area. That evening all the television newsprogrammes backed the papers and even went as far as condemming the police for bring it up.

All for one, one for all, talk about feral beast, Mr Blair was surely right.

  • 13.
  • At 02:08 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • G Gould wrote:

If the Chair of my Board said "Guy has been a very good chief executive" I would know my time was nearly up one way or the other.

  • 14.
  • At 02:10 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • G Gould wrote:

If the Chair of my Board said "Guy has been a very good chief executive" I would know my time was nearly up one way or the other.

  • 15.
  • At 02:11 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Peter Kilfoyle,M.P. wrote:

Nick Robinson should name his sources for his allegations (anonymous , of course!)that Members are complaining to him about the Speaker.I cannot find one who says either (a) he is a biased chairman ,or(b) that he must go.It is particularly outrageous to imply that the Speaker would not call someone who criticised him.Where is the evidence for that?How does he defend himself against such baseless imputations? As for the Sunday Mirror , when did it become immune to the witch-hunt mentality which regularly infects an already rabid lobby?Finally , remember that the lobby does not select the Speaker - whether they like it or not , Members do.

  • 16.
  • At 02:13 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Graham Cable wrote:

With MPs trying their hardest to give the impression:-

a) they break the spirit, if not the letter, of the rules on expenses

b) they believe they should be unique in this country by not having their expenses vetted

c) they will vote for nothing that jeopodises their own personal interests

d) they don't care what anyone else thinks about them

is it any wonder that the number of people who can be bothered to vote just keeps on falling.

  • 17.
  • At 02:16 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Dennis Briggs wrote:

The reasons you have listed are the reasons why so many people are apathetic towards politics and decline to vote.
Basically the general consensus is that ALL politicians are only in it for themselves or their families.
Cannot be trusted on issues relating to their own honesty.
They take the moral high ground whilst do as they wish themselves.
Until we get total transparency(iis this possible?)the apathy will just grow and various right/left wing bodies will overshadow the moderate majority.

  • 18.
  • At 02:16 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

Michael Martin has been a "very, very good Speaker." in the same way that Gordon Brown has been a "very, very good PM."

Praise and support from Gordon (the Man Who Came to Dither) Brown has been known to be fatal. Just remember Peter Hain (Who? Yeah - he who retired to spend more time with his sun-bed).

  • 19.
  • At 02:16 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Graham Cable wrote:

With MPs trying their hardest to give the impression:-

a) they think it is fine to break the spirit, if not the letter, of their own rules on expenses

b) they believe they should be unique in this country by not having their expenses vetted

c) they will vote for nothing that jeopodises their own personal interests

d) they don't care what anyone else thinks about them. They are a race apart.

is it any wonder that the number of people who can be bothered to vote just keeps on falling.

  • 20.
  • At 02:18 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Tim B wrote:

I think this is starting to damage MPs reputations beyond repair -e xcept the ivory towered Mr Martin doesn't seem to realise it. There appears amongst the public to be a growing feeling that all MPs are 'on the fiddle' and they cannot expect anything to be done about it - hence why bother worrying or caring about it, or for that matter voting in general elections.

  • 21.
  • At 02:20 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Mark Saunders wrote:

Ah, the "Stop this nonsense now," defence. Every petty criminal and scofflaw brought to book should try it, along with an airy "Oh, rules? Laws, you say? Tish, they only apply to other people."

  • 22.
  • At 02:39 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • M. Lawlor wrote:

I think the rush of support is most likely due to the "Domino Theory".
When the first domino is allowed to fall, it tends to take many more with it.
I'm very surprised John Spellar's constituents show little interest in MPs expenses. In my area the talk of MPs expenses has overtaken the weather as a leading topic.

  • 23.
  • At 02:40 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Robin wrote:

When will this dystopia end? We have a government in complete denial about party finances, inflation, the busted yet viable Northern Rock, immigration, education, the list goes on of failed government initiatives.

Constantly trying to set a new agenda while refusing to own up to the mistakes of the past is a rather tricky agenda. It's allowing the stench of incompetence to hang around rather longer than the government wished.

Speaker Martin is yet another dead man walking for this dysfunctional government which arrived ten years ago promising utopia and have left us with a country nobody recognises.

  • 24.
  • At 02:56 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Adam Penny wrote:

Michael Martin should never have been appointed in the first place. By the Labour party opting for a Labour candidate rather than a tory following another Labour candidate has simply ensured that another institution that ensured balance has been destroyed.

They were foolish not to think forward to the day that they are in opposition again. But then foresight has never been this governments strong point.

  • 25.
  • At 02:57 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Mickey Smith wrote:

There is at present no evidence that Mr Speaker has done no wrong financially. There have been rumblings of dissent at his performance in recent times so I guess various journalists have been 'encouraged' to get up a damaging story about him.

  • 26.
  • At 02:58 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Timmy Mac wrote:

The comments about the stories about him being generated by class hatred are laaughable.

Are we supposed to imagine that no "working class" chap would ever be devious and greedy in the way they rack up expenses?

Have all the other accusations there have ever been resulted from some sort of class hatred against "toffs"?

The defence is no defence, but an attempted deflection...which make you wonder why...?

  • 27.
  • At 03:02 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • padraig o'brian wrote:

The absence of support from non-Labour sources is telling. It is inconceivable that Betty Boothroyd would have had support from Labour alone, but it is inconceivable that she'd have been in Martin's situation. Once he's gone, the verdict will be clear - he's been a biased mediocrity, as Tony Blair knew he would be and which is why he was chosen.

  • 28.
  • At 03:03 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Matthew Clark wrote:

or he blocked the publication of MP employee expenses and the media was ticked off as a result?

  • 29.
  • At 03:05 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Alan Boyce wrote:

We have come to expect nothing other than mealy words from Brown. Of course he will publicly support a fellow Scot. He and his tired government deny, bluff, fail to take responsibility for anything and act in a totally authoritarian way, oblivious to the dismay of us, the public. Why don't they just make a sart cleaning themselves up, concentrate on the UK and try to set an example to the rest of the world through actions, not dictat.

  • 30.
  • At 03:07 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Paul, Leeds wrote:

Honour should enter the equation and he should step down immediately.

Any promotions received (e.g. Air Miles) should be used to reduce the tax-payers bill for future justifiable flights, not ensuring his family have nicer seats on a jolly.

Does this mean other MPs have used their air miles for personal use e.g. wine and cuddly toys, as well as flights?

It explains why they are all very quiet!

  • 31.
  • At 03:08 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Craig D. wrote:

Hi, Nick

Five points here - but forgive me for rubbishing every one of them, as follows:

1) Who cares what John Spellar thinks ? To borrow an immortal phrase from Sir Robin Day, isn't he just another here-today/gone-tomorrow Westminster nobody ?

2) "Scared to cross him"..? God help us if this is the case. MP's have NO right to be afraid of ANYONE, except the public who elect them and pay their grossly-inflated salaries (WITH expenses).

3) The speaker should be openly ELECTED by his/her MP peers, on a free (ie. un-rigged, non-party, non-partisan) vote at the opening of EVERY Parliament. Anything less is a cosy, back-scratching, corrupt, and scandalous abuse of position and privilege by the incumbent AND those who support him.

4) "Class-based sneering"..? Wow..!! That's not something the rest of the population have to endure on a daily basis in class-ridden Britain, is it ? Never mind the working-classes and penniless farmers sneered at by the landed toffs, and the upwardly-mobile middle-classes sneered at by the drunken, criminally-minded chav hordes on their suburban doorsteps. No, No. We must make a special case for this coarse, oafish, arrogant man who has been universally unpopular since the day of his appointment, simply because he came from a POOR family..!! Didn't we all..?

5) "Silence or support" is the way to get rid of him ? Really ? What's wrong with a VOTE...? Ohh... of course. This is Westminster. We don't do democratic causes there anymore.

6) A sixth reason ? The PM's backing speaks for itself. With the personal (dis)loyalty for which GB is now widely-known, this particular ship is sunk for sure..!!

  • 32.
  • At 03:08 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Alan Boyce wrote:

We have come to expect nothing other than mealy words from Brown. Of course he will publicly support a fellow Scot. He and his tired government deny, bluff, fail to take responsibility for anything and act in a totally authoritarian way, oblivious to the dimay of us, the public. Why don't they just make a sart cleaning themselves up, concentrate on the UK and try to set an example to the rest of the world through actions, not dictat.

  • 33.
  • At 03:16 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • David Simmons wrote:

I think Gordon Brown's comment, if it is in fact 'verbatim', Nick, is very telling..
'Michael Martin HAS BEEN a very, very good Speaker...'
Need I say more..??

  • 34.
  • At 03:16 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Steve wrote:

I would think by now, that everyone in the country is aware that Politicians are less trust worthy than Estate agents or Solicitors. I for one, am not suprised by this sort of allegation.

I am only suprised that, these people seem to walk away from their wrong doing without being brought to justice.

  • 35.
  • At 03:24 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Chris C wrote:

I don't see any bias by Mr Speaker against the Tories in debates.

Having watched a lot of the Northern Rock and the EU Treaty debates he lets them have a lot of lattitude including not pulling people up for wandering off topic and taking endless interventions.

  • 36.
  • At 03:26 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Spannerman Pete wrote:

The point about expenses for most of us is that you have to incur the expense to claim it back - it seems that these guys treat it as a piggy bank they get by right and if they dont spend it all then thats OK, they can keep the balance. Their apparent ignorance of how this is seen in the working world is breathtaking, they look more like Lord Black than 'honourable gentlemen and ladies'.
Westminster is not a village, it's another planet in a galaxy far,far away.

  • 37.
  • At 03:28 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • kate, Salisbury wrote:

I think it's a disgrace. Politicians are only interested in lining their own pockets with our money. A lot of them also sit on the board of companies and lobby for government contracts. It's about time they delivered on education and social deprivation.

  • 38.
  • At 03:40 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • danny streather wrote:

I rather think that our "Honourable Members" have been struck by a strong sense of self preservation. They started all this themselves when they all thought they saw political mileage in snitching on each other. Divided, they are exposed, and are only now trying for a show of unity with the speaker. They are now beginning to reap what they have sown. All this only serves to prove what we the public already know, that, at best, they are, to a man, an untrustworthy bunch of self serving charlatans. Not a case of "devil take the hindmost" but more I hope the devil takes them all.

  • 39.
  • At 03:48 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Terry wrote:

If David Cameron thinks Labour will support having a former Tory as the next Speaker then he might as well whistle in the wind for all the good that it will do him. The current Speaker has been very good for the Government and it's almost impossible to see how they could ever give up such an advantage, unless it's through some Tory who behaves slavishly on the Government side. I have nothing but admiration for Michael Martin who has clearly overcome some pretty high hurdles to get where he is; the point is he is not perceived as fair and balanced, and furthermore is now being accused of being representative of a system within Parliament that needs a radical shake-up. Over the weekend, when questioned about the Speaker's expenses, some former Labour minister said that the Speaker is worth a lot more money than he is being paid; I'm not quite sure whether he really understood the implication of that comment when seen in juxtaposition with the questions being raised on expenses, but if - along with the comments about his social status - is how low this debate has gone, then surely it is lost.

  • 40.
  • At 03:50 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Maggi Nixon wrote:

Mr. Martin is a very poor Speaker of the Bouse of Commons and does not take an unbiased view.
He is also a very greedy man with little understanding of correct and honourable behaviour.

  • 41.
  • At 03:52 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • EJT wrote:

Given the way the Hon. Speaker allows Brown to get away with responding to all questions with either a question to the Leader of whichever opposition party asked it, or else a list of irrelevant boasts, I'd be surprised if Martin wasn't Brown's ideal Speaker.

Don't they realize how the electorate despise our contemptible collection of little noses-in-the-trough MPs? Did they do so, they should surely all be scared at what they are doing to our democracy.

Or perhaps they just want to get whatever they can at our expense before they are tossed out into the real world.

  • 42.
  • At 03:52 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Suzy wrote:

When I remember Betty Boothroyd, I realise that Michael Martin is not in fact a "very, very good Speaker".

  • 43.
  • At 03:55 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Julian Hyde wrote:

He may have followed the rules but think on it. The allowance is for maintaining a 2nd home presumebaly in London if your constituency is in Scotland. His 2nd London home is a luxurious grace & favour freebie. So what does he need to claim the £17 grand for other to put in his pocket!!!!

  • 44.
  • At 03:56 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • c adams wrote:

Once again Brown shows his lack of courage and principle in this mealy mouthed and unconvincing appraisal of a man who is regarded as a time server with his snout well in the trough....but sadly who in Westminster isn t?

  • 45.
  • At 03:59 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Colin wrote:

I heard John Spellar on the Today program this morning. I was actually shocked by his attitude. He seemed almost indignant that anyone would have the temerity to even raise an eyebrow at the way MP's have conducted themselves in relation to taxpayer funded expenses, never mind demand that they only avail themselves of our money to cover actual out of pocket expenses incurred on proper business.

I think the main reason MP's on all sides are rallying round Martin is because they all know that the Conway affair is just the tip of a very large, dark, toxic iceberg...

  • 46.
  • At 04:00 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • c adams wrote:

Once again Brown shows his lack of courage and principle in this mealy mouthed and unconvincing appraisal of a man who is regarded as a time server with his snout well in the trough....but sadly who in Westminster isn t?

  • 47.
  • At 04:22 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Richard Chaplin wrote:

Buggin's Turn is another Tory nonsense: or to put it another way it juat doesnt exist (much like compassionate conservatism...)

Between 1905 when Speaker Lowther was installed (he lasted 16 years) and 1965 when Dr Horace King became Labour's first Speaker there were six Speakers, five of them Tories, the sixth a Liberal in coalition with the Tories.

  • 48.
  • At 04:24 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Alan Walker wrote:

I think the time has come where the expenses of politicians come under the same rules and regulations as those applied to the people they serve, the public.
If we all follow the same identical guidelines then there should be no conflict of interest.
Also the public MUST HAVE value for money from Politicians and Public Servants or we have the same problems that the French had some centuries ago. The solution was not very pleasant, but somewhat inevitable.

  • 49.
  • At 04:25 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Al Elliott wrote:

In what other organisations do Senior Management have their own little mini business to run their office? MP's should have an office made up of civil service employees salaried through the Civil Service not through some expense system. The allowance for accomodation in London should be fixed and the same for everyone. Like many others have said, the reason they are all rallying round the speaker is that they know that their cosy little money making scams are about to be exposed.

I would raise all MP's salaries to an amount that recognised their status and attracted the right sort of people, give them all an equal set up in terms of "office infrastructure" and get rid of these huge allowances. I would also introduce performance related pay based on voting attendences and feedback from constituents. Once every 5 years at an election is not enough to assess their performance and give people an opportunity to get rid of them

I do not believe the rush to support speaker Martin is a sincere expression of MPs liking of him. He has shown a distinct bias towards his labour cronies and ignored the rules of the house on many occasions. He does not rate comparison as speaker with Tonypandy, Wetherill or Boothroyd. Most MPs would surely be glad to see the back of him.
There seems to be an endemic problem with people once they have entered parliament. I put it down to the exclusivity and club quality of the institution and moreover the Palace of Westminster itself. The speaker's grace and favour apartments are opulent by any standard. Combine this with 24 hour subsidized drinking and myriad other privileges such as obscene expense allowances, relaxed anti-smoking policies, applying to the rest of us, and so on and it is little wonder that these people come to believe themselves unaccountable to the electorate. Gorbals Mick is just the latest example of this phenomenon.

  • 51.
  • At 04:43 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • job wrote:

First, Parliament needs major reform beginning with a large reduction of MPs and a relocation to an environmental sustainable building.
The Palaces of Westminster could then become a museum saving a huge amount of money on maintenance, energy costs, catering, staff etc. MPs employment contracts including pay, pension, and working hours could then be sorted.

  • 52.
  • At 04:46 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • John Sharp wrote:

MP's have lost sight of the fact that they are public servants. They work for us, not the other way round. They should be made to provide receipts for all expenses claimed.i.e. they should live by the same rules that apply to other UK employees.

Permitting allowances for second homes is ripe for corruption and there is evidence that it has been seriously abused, not just by ordinary MP's, but by Cabinet and Junior Ministers also. All MP's should be investigated and those found guilty of falsification need to be prosecuted.

  • 53.
  • At 04:57 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • David Mosey wrote:

Everyone would have a better idea of what's going on if they turned to the final page of "Animal Farm"-- you can't tell the pigs and humans apart. Or you could ponder the question "why won't sharks attack lawyers?"

  • 54.
  • At 05:00 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Malcolm Langley wrote:

As there is very little difference between Blair and Brown it is to be supposed that praise from the PM is the signal that Michael Martin is on his way out.

  • 55.
  • At 05:13 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Anonymous wrote:

The 'Speaker' is merely a totem of a whole system that is rotting away.

Surely one day, the English people will awake from this political torpor and recast the system completely.

It has reached the point where nothing less will do.

  • 56.
  • At 05:16 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • EJT wrote:

Given the way the Hon. Speaker allows Brown to get away with responding to all questions with either a question to the Leader of whichever opposition party asked it, or else a list of irrelevant boasts, I'd be surprised if Martin wasn't Brown's ideal Speaker.

Don't they realize how the electorate despise our contemptible collection of little noses-in-the-trough MPs? Did they do so, they should surely all be scared at what they are doing to our democracy.

Or perhaps they just want to get whatever they can at our expense before they are tossed out into the real world.

  • 57.
  • At 05:18 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Roy Dickinson wrote:

I think the debate that should be being held is the debate about the rules not whether the Speaker has broken the rules.

Of course almost all if not all MPs will be in supportive of the Speaker they benefit from the same rules about expenses. Why should an MP object to rules that give them money when no money needs to have been spent.

An independent group should look at all the rules re expenses and rewrite them so that only money actually spent can be claimed.

Most of the rest of us can only claim money we actually spend so why should MPs be treated any differently.

The more I hear about MPs and MEPs money, in all forms including their salary, it is no surprise that they are held in contempt and the general public become more and more reluctant to become involved in the democratic process.

  • 58.
  • At 05:21 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Adrian Dennis wrote:

Whilst there may be cause for concern, how can anyone tell when we have such a grubby bunch of liars and cheats in our media. Certainly I would love to hear an impartial account of what has happened but quite frankly I can't see that happening with our gutter press ... and broadcasting media. The only surprise is that the usual political opportunists have not lept in front of the TV cameras yet, as they usually do, for their usual self-promotion.
I would take this story more seriously if it was not promoted by such disreputable scoundrels.

  • 59.
  • At 05:22 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • george lancashire wrote:

Can no one help us in this sorry state of affairs ? alas we are as fraser would have said doomed , the house should be shut down , and an independant investigation mounted . the civil service could run the country whilst this is going on

  • 60.
  • At 05:30 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • David West wrote:

I am apalled at extreme arrogance of members of parliament cheering this sad and useless speaker. They show their complete contempt for the people they
are paid to represent. Yes I too agree that politicians are no longer to be trusted. Is there no one with integrity in the commons?

  • 61.
  • At 05:30 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Jon wrote:

Brown really has lost the plot if he honestly believes this speaker is "very , very good". If that is so, my chances of witnessing Elvis Presley crash-land an UFO on the Loch Ness monster must be "very, very good" too.

I don't think anyone except Gordon would honestly claim he's even half as good as some of the other speakers we've had since the Commons was televised.

  • 62.
  • At 05:37 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • ken wrote:

Come off it Gorbals Mick!! You keep wingeing on that "they" don't like you because of your lowly working class roots.

Can I remind you that Betty Boothroyd was a lowly tiller girl and they loved her.

Also if I remember correctly Speaker Tonypandy was from humble origins and they both did a superb job.

No the reason for this rational campaign, to get you to see sense and resign, is that you are ignorant, of lowly intellect and frankly not up to the job.

So get rid of that HUGE chip on your shoulder, smell the coffee and resign

  • 63.
  • At 05:47 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Ed wrote:

The Speaker must go, and every MP who cheered him this afternoon should go as well.

These fools just don't get it - how do they think this looks to Westminster outsiders? The electorate are being forced to tighten their belts and deal with the rising costs of living while our so called 'honourable' elected representatives continue snuffling away like pigs in a trough, gorging on expenses and loot.

A major examination and reform of the whole political system by a wholly independent body is needed, and fast, before the rotting stench overwhelms us.

  • 64.
  • At 05:49 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • J. Duncan wrote:

Politicians just don't appear to understand that the public are no longer satisfied with their standard excuse that they have not broken any rules. The rules regarding MPs finances have been drawn up by MPs, interpretated by MPs to there own advantage, and alleged breaches are regulated by MPs. It may not be a breach of the rules which they have made for themselves for the Speaker to be able to claim thousands of pounds of allowances for a property in Glasgow when he is provided with FREE accomodation in London but why on earth should he be entilted to these allowances? There cannot be any justification for the taxpayer having to provide/pay for his accomodation in both cities. Is there anyone out there, preferably an MP, who can justify this on any grounds other than "it's within the rules"?

  • 65.
  • At 05:49 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Annest Wiliam wrote:

Could the answer possibly be number 4? No, silly me - journalists are never at fault are they? It must be the politicians - again.

  • 66.
  • At 06:17 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • James Rowland wrote:

In a way Im not unhappy about all these Scandals

As someone who beleives in constitutional reform and the need a radical reform of Parliament, PR, I believe that the reaction of MPs which has been to protect one of their own number who has been caught with his fingers in the till (expense fraud) adds to sense that the existing system is Rotten and corrupt and Morally Bankrupt and that Politicians are now a vested interest determined to protect a priveliged position enjoyed at the expense of the rest of the population

This is a feeling that Mr Martins review of Parliamentary expenses by a man whose own snout is so obviously in the trough assisted by MPS who have also been caught creaming off tax payers money will do nothing to dispel

The More rotten and corrupt parliament is is the house the more people will demand some kind of reform

  • 67.
  • At 06:18 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Dee wrote:

How much longer are we going to tolerate a parliament where once Honorable MP's manage to self-police themselves away from public scrutiny

What seems to have developed is a system of getting away with "what the rules allow".

The reality in any other walk of life is that expenses are there to cover the cost of doing the job. Buying a house on expenses then many years later giving it to your children might be within the rules but is it ethical and honest use of the money? Likewise other incidents of clever use of the rules to improve personal wealth.

The time has come for all MP's expenses to be claimed in full and published on the Internet. Likewise their pensions should reflect the pensions now received by the majority of taxpayers. How else can they remain in contact with the reality of living in the UK with rising tax and "real price inflation" (RPI)?

I am fed up with seeing MP's enrich themselves at our expense. The first party to take this on board and instruct their MP's to publish has my vote.

Damn, I knew I should have become a politician - it's the only way these days to have a place in London and be able to maintain a pad in the country at the same time. An added benefit is that I would be able to travel first class on rail and use taxis everywhere in town. Obviously this is only the top of the iceberg as there are doubtless lots of other ways to extract money form the public purse.

All this for being a "servant" of the people - or should that be "serpent"?

Investigation / change of "laws"? Bring it on!

  • 69.
  • At 06:56 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Simon Davey wrote:

It is sad - but a clear reflection of the '60s, class warfare time warp so many Labour MPs still live in - that any attack on the Speaker's (lack of)competence is immediately misrepresented as an attack on his social and geographical roots. It doesn't matter a darn whether he comes from Glasgow, did not go to Eton or used to be a manual worker: the basis of the attacks on him (as I understand it) is that he does not understand Parliamentary procedure, gives incoherent rulings and lacks the impartiality of his distinguished predecessors. And nobody could accuse the last three Speakers of being upper class twits - far from it - but the difference between them and Mr Speaker Martin is that they enjoyed respect (yes, Mr Martin, respect) across the entire House.

  • 70.
  • At 07:25 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Tony Wicks wrote:

If the Speaker was a Man of Honour he would announce that he was apointing an independant team to investigate and report on MPs allowances rather than those he has appointed (they also have an odious aura) - It matters not that he has dipped into the gravy train - It appears that most if not all MP (and Euro MP's) take everything going because the rules allow this form of legalised fraud as far as MPs are concerned.

  • 71.
  • At 07:35 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • D.Wilson wrote:

Most MPs will be rather nervous,should Mick be drummed out. He may be replaced by one who has much more intelligence and that would never do.

  • 72.
  • At 07:53 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • john duguid wrote:

come on mr speaker just answer all the allegations truthfully after all going by past allegations against mps nothing will happen to you

  • 73.
  • At 07:55 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Stan Meek wrote:

This is another case of the police investigating the police.
The man has been caught fair and square so Brown should fire him but fat chance of that happening as with all the other Scots now in senior Labour positions.

  • 74.
  • At 08:24 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Laurence Escreet wrote:

Another Scot in the New Labour establishment. Can't we have some
positive discrimination in some of these important positions. IE one or two Englishmen or women

  • 75.
  • At 08:55 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • sarah w wrote:

Every company I've ever worked for has required me to submit receipts with any expense claim. Why are MPs different?

  • 76.
  • At 09:29 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Dennis wrote:

If I were to submit an expense claim for £10 let alone £249 without a receipt, there would have to be a very good reason if I expected to get my money back. Yet these 'honourable' ladies and gentlemen could pretend they took a business class flight to their constituency and go National Express and no-one would blink an eyelid. Or spend the £249 in any way they like and just pocket the profit. Stink? It reeks.

  • 77.
  • At 09:41 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • georgegray wrote:

Does this matter not merit a referendum-should all MPs expenses not be investigated, independantly?

Perhaps the reason they are all the speakers best friends now is because all the MPs are worried about what their personal expenses are.

Surely the reason the Mr Martin has so many friends is that he has done nothing wrong under the current Westminster rules. These rules are out of date, as I'm sure Henry McLeish and David McLetchie can testify (both McLeish and McLetchie resigned from their positions for expenses scandals which were nowhere near as bad as the one engulfing The Speaker).

As for the class sneering, if those comments were made against a non white person, there would be an outrage. Still who cares, its only against the scots. One only despairs of the london based press...

  • 80.
  • At 11:14 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Neil Small wrote:

The fact the Speaker is a Scot has nothing to do with his support.

It is pure politics. To remove the Speaker is political suicide for Labour; and to force the Speaker out is the same for the Conservatives.

But if he is found not to be declaring his expenses properly, the Speaker must resign immediately. The one MP in the House of Commons who must be totally clean.

What I do not understand is why the Speaker can claim for a house with no mortgage (if reports are correct).

And why does someone not call in the Police about the Speaker? Everyone else is at it.

  • 81.
  • At 11:35 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Iain wrote:

Simple rule of politics....MPs loyalties:

1. To themselves. Heaven forbid that they are criticised by the public.

2. To those within government or their party leadership with career influence.

3. To the party, right or wrong.

4. To people of infuence who may be of use (donations, second career directorships etc).

At the bottom: the taxpayers and public who elect them.

  • 82.
  • At 11:49 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • J Smith wrote:

Why are there double standards in government departments? I have to keep receipts for two years and justify everything I claim for, from a sandwich to an overnight hotel stay. Our claims are randomly audited frequently as well. Surely their expenses should be audited and justified in a similar fashion?

  • 83.
  • At 03:44 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • teacher wrote:

Brilliant analysis all round - but the point is missed; the whole show is a smoke screen.

In a 'democracy,' the People could now be consulted about everything; but they still just get to scrawl a donkey cross every four years.

And nobody cares.

  • 84.
  • At 08:49 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • J Smith wrote:

What i don't understand about expesnes is why the government shouldn't have to follow the exact same procedures as the electorate does when reclaiming expenses from their employers?

At the moment much of what ministers can claim would give rise to a tax bill for the electorate or their employer.

Not much to ask really is it?

  • 85.
  • At 09:00 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Jacques Cartier wrote:

We pay the MPs good wages and we expect them to work hard and cut costs like the public is required to do - MPs must set an example.

But to keep them on the straight and narrow, MPs must also fear the public reaction to misbehaviour. As long as the story keeps the spotlight on the issue of possible overpayment and corruption amongst MPs, then the story is serving the public good.

  • 86.
  • At 09:03 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • glyn williams wrote:

If anyone in this country needs proof that our so called democratic system is sick, almost to the point of no return, just look at the way MP's have sought to support Michael Martin. Irrespective of whether anyone has broken any laws, there appears to be no focus on the way the system allows MPs crude indulgence and greediness to effectively 'steal' and misuse Public funds. The extreme 'left' in particular has thrown up its usual smokescreen by playing the working class card. It simply does not occur to these peole that we, the voters (and in most cases the 'working class' the left is always saying it is protecting),is where the money comes from. What is also sickening is the way these same people talk about the Monarchy sponging off society. Are MPs now any different?
I think not.

  • 87.
  • At 09:08 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Robin wrote:

I'm afraid the arrival of Speaker Martin in the Commons yesterday put one in mind of the arrival of the Lord High Executioner of Titipu in the Mikado. So much hubris is good for no-one, except this governemnt and its cronies appear to excel in self congratulatory grandstanding.

  • 88.
  • At 09:09 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • william alexander wrote:

Make a law that expenses will only be paid as part of the salary. Note, this means if the salary is 100,000 that includes all expenses. watch their travel drop like a stone because it comes from their own pocket.
For those on the make, a legal penalty of loss of all family assets. No prison time.

  • 89.
  • At 09:23 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • A P-Adams wrote:

I smell the stench of corruption running very deep here...

We need politicians who have the courage of their convictions. Not these dithers on both sides who appear to have the collective backbone of a grasshopper.

My message to them:
Drop this party political game you are too accustomed to play for a moment, unite and sweep the speaker and the corruption from the house now!

  • 90.
  • At 09:26 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • David Robinson wrote:

It looks as if the corrupt are rallying around the corrupt to protect each other and ensure that the extortion of even more tax-payer's money from the gravy train continues unabated.

  • 91.
  • At 09:54 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • B ashton wrote:

You can't have MPs looking at their own expenses, you need a completly INDEPENDENT body with no links to any MPs to take a nonbiased, fair view, and anyone found wanting should be made an example of. Corruption has no place in the heart of democracy (indeed anywhere in democracy). MPs get payed enough without milking the cashcow which appears to be Westminster. Its not as if they do that good a job anyway! Im disapointed that some don't have the good grace to admit when they are in the wrong

  • 92.
  • At 10:17 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Francis McWilliams wrote:

The system encourages MPs to have the biggest cars, the most staff, and claim the greatest variety of expenses. Apart from these not being scrutinised, there is no incentive to moderation or frugality.

  • 93.
  • At 10:26 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Alan Thompson wrote:

Mr.Speaker has suddenly got so many friends in the house because a can of worms could be opened up if he should called to answer for details on his expenses.


Don't you feel just a little bit insulted when they use the 'It's all about class' argument on you? It does imply that they think you'll swallow anything.

A damaged, and weak Speaker is a good thing for the Opposition so no wonder Labour's Jonah is supporting Martin.

  • 95.
  • At 09:44 PM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • Andy wrote:

What would be nice and would help us be a little more patriotic is the following.

Currently in most of the country you need planning permission from the local council to fly the St. Georges flag, as apparantly it may offend some folk???

Shocking, last i checked i'm in England.
If people are offended by the Flag, why are they hear.

I know if i went to Italy and told them not to fly their flag, i would be placed on the next flight out of there!

I think we cater for foreign nationals a little too much!

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