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A question of when, not if

Nick Robinson | 18:04 UK time, Monday, 18 May 2009

Whether friends or foes of Michael Martin, many on all sides at Westminster believe that it is now not a question of if the Speaker will go, but when.

Michael MartinThey cannot see how his authority can or will recover from being told to his face by MPs of all the main parties that he should resign.

However, as his statement made clear, it is the government that controls not just whether a motion of no confidence in him is debated but, crucially, when.

The signs are that, after a meeting with the Speaker last night, the prime minister may have agreed to buy him a little time.

The Speaker will now chair a meeting of all Westminster's party leaders tomorrow afternoon.

He may hope to be able to announce the outcome of those talks before the Commons takes a half-term break on Thursday.

He may hope that ministers will resist the mounting pressure to debate his future before then.

He may then hope to be able to announce his retirement in his own way rather than to be the first Speaker forced from office in 300 years.

Of course, his hopes may prove to be unfounded.

Speaker Martin has his defenders.

Even some of his critics fear that he is being made a scapegoat.

Others are determined that no Speaker should be forced from office.

However, many at Westminster have come to the conclusion that his time is up.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Does this trougher not have an ounce of integrity? Do the decent thing and resign for gods sake. Do labour know no bounds with the depth of their contempt for (us) their paymasters?

  • Comment number 2.

    Chopping one of the heads off the body politic does not revive a corpse.

  • Comment number 3.

    That must have been the most mealy mouthed statement ever to be made in the house.
    And thats quite an achievement.

  • Comment number 4.

    Whilst having no sympathy for Speaker Martin, without doubt he is being used as a scapegoat at this time.

    He should have gone after the Damian Green affair.

  • Comment number 5.

    This only makes the situation worse. The Speaker is not THE reason Parliment is in this mess but he sure is ONE of the reasons.

    If MP's cannot get rid of one man, then they do not stand a chance in hell of sorting this problem out.

    If the Government are the ones who control the ability to allow a no confidence vote & they do not enable it to occur, then they are just digging the hole deeper.

    I suggest a black hole is the only thing that could make a hole deeper than this lot are doing.

    Get rid of the man, he is useless & vindictive.

  • Comment number 6.

    Speaker Martin has become the news. Time to get out quick.

  • Comment number 7.

    >However, as his statement made clear, it is the government that >controls not just whether a motion of no confidence in him is debated >but, crucially, when.

    GB says the parliment controls this.... ?

    Confusion, dispair.....

    So GB is controlling the speaker....

  • Comment number 8.

    Maybe, in this gruesome piece of political theatre, Martins time is up.

    But this English blogger is deeply unimpressed by suggestions that Menzies Campbell takes his place because I am fed up with Scottish politicians in office in Westminster, England when they have their 'own place' in Edinburgh, Scotland.

    Furthermore, as Dominic Lawson wrote in an outstanding article in yesterdays ST, Campbell was the one, under pressure from Dimbleby in last weeks Question Time, who blurted out in effect 'we did it because we knew we could get away with it' re: the expenses.

    As my lads would probably say ... thats minging.

  • Comment number 9.

    I am rather surprised that MPs were as docile as they seemed to be this afternoon. When the Speaker said they ALL had to bear responsibility for the shame heaped upon the House, why did nobody spring up and say "Not me"? Those who claimed in a reasonable manner are not equally guilty as those who made rediculous arrangements. People who had been reasonable should have risen and shouted "Not me", in turn.

    (The idea that an MP could pay off all - or a large chunk - of a mortgage but assume he should be allowed to claim at previous interest levels is just ludicrous.)

    I would not expect the Speaker to check every claim. But somebody should have been aware of the disparity between the Green Book and the reality of payments.

    Has there been no auditing of payments over the decades? Even after doubts being raised about the "second home" nonsense for a few years, nobody seemed to think it was important. How can a "second home" for the pruposes of collecting money from the tax-payer morph into a "first home" for the purposes of Capital Gains Tax under HMRC rules?

    Balls and Cooper live in their FIRST home. That will be evident whenever they come to sell it.

    Wisteria should not have been chopped, patio heaters not bought, fancy rugs not allowed.

    It's been a shambles. By a bunch of people who believe that "as long as you use the right words, the people won't realise what's really going on".

    Get rid of the Speaker. Sack the people who administered the Fees Office. Name and shame the Committee members who did an appalling job of oversight.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    Has anyone noticed the "buck-passing" going on here?

    Gordon Brown says it must be a matter for the Commons rather than government, but the speaker says that the motion of no confidence cannot be debated without explicit permission from the government, who would need to put the motion on the order papers!

    Quite part from the ridiculuous contradiction in this particular case, making both the Speaker and Mr Brown look rather silly, doesn't this raise a much more serious constitutional question about the supposed "supremacy" of Parliament over the government? What is the point of having MPs if they are only allowed to debate things that the government "permits" them to talk about?

  • Comment number 12.




  • Comment number 13.

    Whether he jumps or is pushed, presumably he will still be kicked upstairs to the Lords - truly a reward for failure.

  • Comment number 14.

    However, many at Westminster have come to the conclusion that his time is up.

    And more importantly so have most of the General Public.

    Mr Brown call an election before people take to the streets, or are you waiting for that so you can delcare a state of emergency and dump the whole election nuisance.

  • Comment number 15.


    'However, as his statement made clear, it is the government that controls not just whether a motion of no confidence in him is debated but, crucially, when.'

    Gordon Brown is ultimately responsible both for this further crisis and to some fair extent the Speaker.

    The electorate are watching and waiting to see if Gordon Brown/the Speaker will continue to delay due process - because that is what they are doing. It's no use Gordon Brown just saying he is 'angry and appalled' - presumably with himself?

    There is some tension in the air and its like waiting for the Graf Spee to come out of the River Plate and the PM and the Speaker may be on the same treacherous boat.

    The 'conspiracy boat' may be in for repair but the conspirators' life jackets may not yet be floating off to the House of Lords as Britain's finest and best are waiting for them on the open water.

    Ship ahoy! Let's hope we'll see the 'skull and crossbones' flying and sooner rather than later!

  • Comment number 16.

    It would be sad to see the Speakers Office damaged by this present unholy mess.

    However the Speaker must enjoy the absolute confidence of the House and for this reason, Speaker Martin should do the honourable thing and resign.

  • Comment number 17.

    and the speaker shouldnt be the only one removed from the lower house.
    the majority of those that sit in the house need removal as with any rot it should be cut out and replaced.

  • Comment number 18.

    An awful lot of maybes and ifs in your post, Nick. This Martin guy is not suited for the very high office he holds - he is a little man in the truest sense of the word.
    Impossible for this issue not to become tribal - some chippy Labour MPs are already moaning about it. I would like to see some clear-headed, objective journalism regarding this issue, even though I think he should go. Brown is protecting him at the moment - well he would, wouldn't he?
    So, we have a mortally wounded PM and a dead-man-walking Speaker, both part of the Tartan mafia, both Labour MPs, both chippy, both dysfunctional - and both in positions totally beyond their abilities.

  • Comment number 19.

    No need for Speaker Martin to step down: the campaign to defenestrate him is a plain piece of displacement activity by careerists and self-aggrandising lightweights yes, Clegg, I mean you.

    Getting shot of Mr Martin would add undeserved weight to the proposition that it is the system that's at fault rather than the MPs themselves. It would also, and this is not a detail, appear to endorse the smirking journalists who thought up and sniggeringly propagate the offensive, insolent and bigoted epithet 'Gorbals Mick' yes, Letts, and very much yes, Nick Robinson, I mean you.

  • Comment number 20.

    Things really have got to change.

    Nick Clegg is correct in my view that all of "conventions" "unwritten rules" "first time in 300 years" etc are part of the problem, for what is the seat of democratic government being run along the lines of a private victorian gentlemans club.

    It needs to be modernised, and clearly it is not working at the moment with any degree of public confidence. Michael Martin is clearly not up to the job, and he needs to be replaced by someone who is, who can take forward the necessary reforms required to rebuild our democracy.

    My feeling is that he will continue to brazen it out exactly as he has done up to now, and there is little we can do to change that. How on earth did we get into this position, where we have to wait for someone of his obvious incapacity to retire or die before they can be replaced? What a way to run the country.

    I would be in favour of all of parliament being dissolved and a general election being called. I am afraid that our democratic future is too important an issue to be left to politicians to decide.

  • Comment number 21.

    Mr Martin needs to look at himself in the mirror.

    Whether people blame him for the current system or accept that he ran it as it was unqeustioningly, the fact now is that the public mood has turned decisively and will start baying for blood if they don't get reform.

    As that reform cannot be ushered in by him, it follows that he needs to move on. Or end up being dragged from his chair........

    It can be brutal or it can be somewhat calm. I don't think the time for dignity still exists..........

    To me, he was chosen because he was a Scottish working class man, not because he was the right man for the job.

    The Speaker of the House is not a Union Shop Steward, he is the umpire at a cricket match. And the only way you can remain an umpire at cricket is if your lbw decisions don't consistently favour the home side..........

  • Comment number 22.


    Listening to The Speaker in the House today [ Monday ], one but cannot get away from the FACT that Michael Martin IS VERY BAD at the Job that he doe's in the sense that for MOST of the time he is ALWAYS playing Catch - Up with any events that unfold around him, for he appears NEVER to be in Control in Real-Time.

    While I except that alot of those same M.P.s' that are now Calling for him to step down ARE again the same M.P.s' that also have cheated upon their Expenses and Allowances Claims, many of whom also that should have by now have been arrested for de-frauding the Tax-Payer, with their false Claims.

    We also have to remember that there are also Questions that need to, and have to be Answered by The Speaker in relation to HIS OWN Claims, from Expenses and Allownaces also.

    The last straw in the Case of the Speakers poor mis-judgement for most People was not merely the conclusion that he is unable to Command the respect of the House of Commons itself with his judgements relating to events, but it was HIS COMPLETE LACK OF JUDGEMENT in understanding the Peoples Rights under Freedom of Information Legislation when he did nothing but to bring in [ Wrongly ] the Police to investigate the Reports in the Daily Telegraph, while at this same time when asking [and expecting ,], the Police to investigate the Telegraph to try and find out who leaked ALL the M.P.s' Expenses and Allowance Claims to this Newspaper to Reports, which is not only in the Public Interest of Rights to Know, but is also a damning exposure upon the way many M.P.s' have been on the fiddle over at lease the past 30 and more Years. The Speaker should have also balanced his request of the Police to also look into ALL the M.P.s' Expenses and Allowances Scandal, at the same time.

    While Britain has the Worlds oldest democrary, which in itself is now Light-Years out of Date, as well as being out of Touch with its People, for the Westminister Village along with its Tradition must now be confined to being turned into a Museum for Tourist, and also confined to the History Books.

    What replaces this current mess in the Westminster Twilight - Zone Village of Self - Believing Elite Politics should be decided by an immediate General Election, so that the People can have their say by removing many, and if not ALL of the current incumbent M.P.s' at Westminster.

  • Comment number 23.

    Today's performance was almost as utterly inept as his performance over the Damien Green affair. Michael Martin is acting like a union convener, not the CEO of the Commons. He is accountable for the Fees Office and the expenses system, and if that system is an utter failure, he should be held to account and go. Sir Victor Blank had the courage and decency to step down when he had lost the confidence of the Lloyds shareholders. Michael Martin should reflect on that whilst he desperately clings to his fading authority.

    I asked the new internet computation engine, which has the answer to everything, "When will Speaker Michael Martin step down". Sadly, it replied 'Wolfram Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.' Hopefully, our MP's will be allowed to demonstrate exactly what to do with that "input", but if Gordon Brown is deciding on a debate, watch him protect his Scottish Mafia and block it.


  • Comment number 24.

    I have no sympathy for the Speaker, particularly, as he was one those behind Parliament fighting the original Freedom of Information Act request to make MPs expenses public. But he is being made a scapegoat by the same MPs who have been milking the system with the Fees Commission's approval. It's simple, the Police and the Tax Office should be called in, they should investiage evrybody's expense claims and prosecutions should be made.

    What nobody has mentioned so far is that Sir Christopher Kelly's report and recommendations have got to be approved by......Yes you've guessed it.....Parliament!!!! It's farcical!! The most important statistic at the next election will not be the amount of seats each Party gets, not the amount of votes each Party gets but the number of voters who will just stay away. Trust, Dignity, Credibility and Honesty, all required of an MP, has gone. No -one will believe them anymore. And they have the cheek to get angry with the Speaker!!!

  • Comment number 25.

    Well at least we can now confirm that dinosaurs have even thicker skins than a rhinocerus and it takes a fair sized meteor to wipe them out. And even though it shines very bright in the sky they seem unable to see it coming, either that or they think if they hang on long enough it might just hit someone else instead.

    We meanwhile hope it hits all of them and that the colateral damage for the rest of us won't be even more traumatic than it already is.

  • Comment number 26.

    How dare MPs make the Speaker a scapegoat for their wretched greed. They clearly hope that if they offer him up as a sacrifice, they can slip away unnoticed while the baying mob tears him part.

    To be sure, he did not handle this well, but the real issue is the fact that MPs who loot the system are not subject to electoral sanction unless they sit for marginals - i.e. only about one in 10. The rest are fairly safe. Even in those marginals, only a few swing voters will really have a voice. We must move to a fairer voting system, perhaps a simple form of STV that keeps the link between the member and their constituency.

    But real reform like that would scare MPs witless, wouldn't it? Much easier to distract our attention by bullying and screaming at an older politician on the verge of retirement.

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    Now that the proprietors of The Telegraph have done for parliamentary democracy, what next? - the legal system!

    Come on everybody all we have done so far is to see where the shots have been falling - isn't it time to remember who fired them?

    This whole parliamentary farrago has taken our eye of off the ball - the economic ball. The absurd bonus stealers of the city are taking a far far greater advantage of the poor then these guys in parliament.

  • Comment number 29.

    The media have hanged him so he will go. The media won't give up until they have their victims. The facts are no longer relevant.

  • Comment number 30.

    So, let's get rid of M. Martin, it's all his fault anyway, it was him who let MPs claim for their ridiculous expenses so when he's gone they'll all be white as snow. Pull the other one friends. As for Clegg and Cameron calling for a general election, what did you honestly expect them to say?

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    Michael Martin has proved to be a poor example ever since his own expenses claims were called into question some time ago. Since then, his behaviour and lack of leadership have merely compounded his inability to perform his responsibilities reasonably.He seems to me to be a selfish man whose arrogance prevents him from accepting responsibility for his actions in Parliament. In that sense, he is by no means alone.

  • Comment number 33.


    Its not an individual that needs to offer the public a chance to pass judgment. It is all of them.

    We need an election - a cleansing, if you like, casting the money men from the temple of democracy.

    Cameron is apparently calling for one ASAP.

    Great. I hope therefore that he will not be taking part in the Speaker's behind closed door fixing session in the next 48 hours?

    Silly me, politics isn't it.

    Makes you mad, doesn't it?

  • Comment number 34.

    By the way, what is this "Escape Goat" that everybody keeps refering to?

  • Comment number 35.

    He must go, he is part of the problem and is demonstrating the arrogance of this incompetent Labour government by remaining in office when , had he a shred of honour or self respect he would have already resigned. Parliament is no longer the servant of the people, which was what Cromwell envisaged and it must change dramatically if our political system is to remain viable. Bearing in mind that the British people , since the Labour party allowed free mass immigration , is no longer the subserviant population it once was, and may now be more prone to follow the cultures of the newcomers where insurrection and violence is commonplace. Perhaps we may yet see our esteemed politicians losing their heads in Whitehall as in days of yore. (with a bit of luck )

  • Comment number 36.

    What a mumbled, incoherent, insincere apology that turned out to be. I couldn't understand what he said and had to go to the BBC Homepage for a translation. The delaying tactics have started and the boys are off on another half term break this week. Parliament must get its' act together. Propose a motion of no confidence and hold a secret ballot to dismiss the Speaker, without the usual reward for failure.

  • Comment number 37.

    Wow, Nick - this conspiracy stuff is getting interesting.
    How come the mods have No 14 cleared by 1910 hrs while ten earlier postings and several more around the same time are all still in mods?
    Anyway, while I have little time for Mr Martin, this could be a political assassination too far. If it happens once it may happen again. For the sake of a year (and possibly less) we're flirting with something not done for three hundred years and which may come back to bite us in years ahead. Meanwhile it reflects little credit on either Brown or Cameron that they are prepared to let assorted stalking horses do the dirty work rather than having the courage to tackle him head on.
    Will Martin's head on a plate get the full story on the table - a complete disclosure of expenses of all MPs, present and past? Not yet guaranteed.
    Does it set a rather hazardous precedent? Certainly. I don't mind doing a three wise monkeys act while Martin falls but it lays every future Speaker open to political manouevering. Don't let your dislike of the present holder become an excuse for diminishing the stature of the office and its future holders.

  • Comment number 38.

    Listening live to the Speaker addressing Parliament my immediate reaction is how pathetic. It has crystallised how out of touch these politicos are, and reminiscent of the Royal Household at the time of Princess Dianas death.

    The Speaker, and it appears many of the Political class have not grasped the extent of the widespread dissatisfaction in the Country. These are unprecedented times, and as a result unprecedented action need to be taken.

  • Comment number 39.

    it is frankly outrageous that this bunch of MPs think that they can make all their problems go away, and face their constituents with clear consciounces, just because they've made a scapegoat of Michael Martin.
    They're so keen to turn to us, the electorate, and say that they are taking " the necessary radical action" to get their house in order.

    This is yet another example of MPs shying away from taking the necessary, long term decisions to fix a broken system and instead,taking a quick-fix approach just to get a few headlines.

  • Comment number 40.

    Could a deal have been done? Speaker Martin takes the heat for the next couple of days, taking the heat of GB so he can do what he does best, dirty politics. Remember he only has to survive until Thursday then they go on holiday. Then after careful consideration over the break and on advice from No 10 (leaked) the speaker stands down in the interest of democracy and you hear the wonderful political script that all MP's can start to use "A line being drawn under the issue"!

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    Why is the BBC, as so many other news agencies, being diverted from the real issues? The compliance to the diversionary tactics and general hysteria is disheartening - perhaps it is too much to wish for journalism that does not get blinded by the threat of viewing figures or management afflicted by such. FOCUS ON THE CORRUPT, SELF INTERESTED AND GUILTY who should, potentionally, be pursued to prosecution, not the diversionary scapegoat.

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    I have created a petition on the No 10 website "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to allow the
    debate on the No Confidence motion in Speaker Michael Martin" - lets hope they approve it!

  • Comment number 45.

    Speaker shmeaker - what we are seeing is more a case of 'when thieves fall out'. Politicians over the years have gained far to much power - they now believe their own publicity. No longer Public Servants but a 'ruling elite' - above the law. They have to be reined in. This expences fiasco is but the tip of the whole rotten iceberg.
    This whole business is about FRAUD ! Let us not be coy about it - let us not whitewash it - let us not sweep it under the carpet .... IT IS FRAUD ! A cross party system that has been used to systematically abstract money from the public purse.
    Where are the police in all this? The charge is 'Larceny as a servant' - it's on the statute books - why pussyfoot about?
    Never mind the "should they loose their jobs" - why are they not being prosecuted?
    A single struggling mum on benefit who picks up an extra tenner for doing some ironing for neighbours is subject to draconian sentence for 'benefit fraud' under NuLabours legislation. They trumpeted their 'war on benefit fraud' all over the media. OK - well guess what? The same rules should apply to the 'honourable' members. You are NOT above the law!
    How can a country have confidence in the law when the lawmakers themselves are crooks? This is not about party politics - this is a vote of 'No confidence in the whole Palace of Westminster 'Club'
    A politician who is discovered to have a mistress is instantly dismissed. A politician who swindles the country is handled with kid gloves. Somehow that seems a little upsidedown to me. I for one would sooner politicians did it to their mistresses consensually than did it to the whole country ... non-consensually.

    A message to those of the Westmister 'Club'
    Sirs, Mesdames, You have dishonoured and disgraced the people of this Country. You are all tarred with the same brush on this. The term is 'Guilty by Association' - you are intelligent people, do not pretend you did not know what was going on. Stop insulting the intelligence of the common people. You have all ridden the gravy train - the bill is being presented - and I trust it will be a costly one ! In the words of Colonel Thomas Pride 1648 in the House of Commons; "Gentlemen, You have sat too long".

  • Comment number 46.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 47.

    Michael Martin is an embodiment of all that Labour has become: incoherent, incompetent, corrupt and out of touch.

    General Election Now!

  • Comment number 48.

    Of course it's a question of when not if, Nick. That's the whole issue behind the shambles we witnessed today. Going now could force a by-election and snap general election. Staying on until a time of his and Brown's choosing gives them both breathing space.

    The scenes in the commons today were unprecedented. Anger, disgust, disgrace - take your pick.

    I must say that after a lifetime in journalism, I have never seen anything like it. What will the public think, what will the rest of world think?

    MPs have got themselves into a mess of their own making sure but it is the speaker who is at the centre of the disgrace.

    To repeat the spin that the speaker is being used as "a scapegoat" just cow-tows to the government and adds to the smokescreen.

    Today was the day democracy died. An early general election cannot be too far off can it?

  • Comment number 49.

    This fiasco is becoming embarrassing to witness. Anyone with an ounce of self-respect would salvage some dignity and step down from the chair.

    It would appear the one thing Scottish politicians inhabiting Westminster share aplenty is brass neck.

  • Comment number 50.

    I decided to join this blog because I have been so incensed with our so called Westminster pocket it MP's, I think Mr martin needs to go but he is not the answer to this problem. All these MP's that have profited from the system that most of them are blaming must be made to pay back the profits, before they resign because every one of them that fiddled the books will be voted out at the next election, although i don't think the countrys in any mood to wait until then. We should not be paying their 64K when they are obvoiusly corrupt at the worse, and bloody stupid at best and they are running the country.

  • Comment number 51.

    What amazes me is the speed and wherewithal that MPs have shown in paying back some of their expenses, including the "biggies".

    If the moneies claimed had been used for the purposes claimed for then, in my mind there should be no cash left. So how come they were able to pay tens of thousands of pound in some instances at the drop of the hat, or cloak.

    It makes me think that some squirreling away of the monies claimed has been going on.

    I know that I would not be able to stump up the cash in the way that some of the repaying MPs have.

    Can I ask how these sums were paid out of incomes that are moderate at best

  • Comment number 52.

    this is quite exciting, isn't it? - and it's also irrelevant navel gazing - far as I can make out, the Speaker is broadly on a par with the MC at the Wheeltappers and Shunters, 'cept he wears a wig - just sack the guy, he's clearly a bit of a bozo, no big deal - all this "first Speaker to be sacked since Henry was a lad" business, and all this agonising over it, just reinforces to me what a ridiculous, outmoded place the Palace of Westminster is - hey, and I suppose there's some arcane ritual as well, for if he is fired - something like he gets physically pulled from his Chair by the Leader of the House plus the tallest and the shortest MP, and is then dragged out of the Chamber by his earlobes - am I right? - is there a piece of nonsense like that has to happen?

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.

    19. At 6:52pm on 18 May 2009, realdelia wrote:
    No need for Speaker Martin to step down: the campaign to defenestrate him is a plain piece of displacement activity by careerists and self-aggrandising lightweights yes, Clegg, I mean you.

    Getting shot of Mr Martin would add undeserved weight to the proposition that it is the system that's at fault rather than the MPs themselves. It would also, and this is not a detail, appear to endorse the smirking journalists who thought up and sniggeringly propagate the offensive, insolent and bigoted epithet 'Gorbals Mick' yes, Letts, and very much yes, Nick Robinson, I mean you.


    Some people do try very, very hard to be offended, don't they? And unsurprisingly, they usually succeed!

    Please explain why you think it is an offensive, insolent and bigoted epithet. As far as I can see the only problem with it is a small geographical inaccuracy.

  • Comment number 55.

    There's only one reason people after the Speaker. They think that if he goes then they'll all be in the clear for their own indiscretions. It's opportunism without any real point. Who will sit in his place? Someone with as equally bad a record no doubt. Problem solved or new problem started?

    Similarly, calls for an election. To elect who that's any better?

    It's all a complete waste of time and effort. I can't believe anyone's wasting their indignance on the issue. Let the new rules come out and it'll have inevitable repercussions.

    You think we have it bad now? Wait until the new intake arrive.

  • Comment number 56.

    The parliamentary website says that the ACA is 'paid to reimburse Members for necessary costs incurred when staying overnight away from their main home for the purpose of performing parliamentary duties'.

    Why on earth could Members not see that some of the wilder claims could never be considered by a reasonable person to fall within this ambit? How on earth did Members not notice that payments for their mortgages had stopped being taken from their bank accounts?

    Although the Speaker should not be made a scapegoat - and all MPs and Peers, while we're at it - should reflect on the mess they have got the whole British constitutional settlement into, it happened on his watch. Things are so bad that it will take a new broom to sweep clean. The Speaker no longer has the authority or the impartiality to push through the reforms that are needed if the ship of state is not going to become a total shiprwreck, and for that reason he should resign and be replaced.

  • Comment number 57.

    The popular view seems to be that the major parties are going to get something of a roasting come June 4th and the Speakers insistence on his remaining in post (and the tacit agreement of GB for that course of inaction) is likely to result in Labour not just being over cooked but actively cremated.

    Early in the Great MPs Gravy Train Saga it was reported that the Speaker was instrumental in telling the Fees Office to wind its collective neck in and keep paying up. The Speakers involvement in trying to keep the whole sorry situation under wraps by trying to wriggle out of a clear obligation to publish under the FOI Act is unambiguous. So his clinging to his job (I nearly said power; silly me) can only be seen as a grotesque attempt at subordinating what passes for democracy in Britain for his own ends; not wanting to miss out on a generous pay off (how many people in the UK get that sort of benefit when they find themselves out of work) and of course wanting to pass his seat to his son. Now that really is a gross abuse; in case you havent noticed old son the seat is not actually yours to give. The House of Commons is not the place to try and establish dynastic ambitions, whichever party you belong to.

    Our MPs seem to have got themselves mesmerised by parliamentary traditions that have no place in a modern country, or at least not on a day to day basis; keep the pageantry for special occasions but ditch it for normal business. Treating the Speaker as some sort of deity is little short of laughable, or it would be if the current situation were not so serious. Im just glad that I dont have to go abroad and admit to being British; I dont know which would be worse: pity or ridicule.

    While the current problem centres on MPs expenses my own view is that the malaise of the electorate goes far wider than that, and just resolving the cavalier attitude to taxpayers money will not be sufficient. As others have commented elsewhere, I dont want MPs who cannot sort out their expenses with any accuracy having anything to do with introducing or amending UK legislation. It is only necessary to look at the governments falling foul of its own FOI Act and the HRA to realise that they didnt fully understand the implications of what they were passing.

    The entire governance of the UK requires revision; the fact that the West Lothian Question remains unanswered so long after it was posed is sufficient to demonstrate the underlying validity of that assertion. I would also hope that somehow the number of politicians might be reduced (little hope of that, I fear) because ever since we joined the EEC we have found ourselves saddled with more and more of them, with devolution adding even more.

    Anyway, June 4th promises to be ever more interesting, with Labour clearly unaware of (or perhaps indifferent to) the mood of the electorate.

  • Comment number 58.

    They've nearly succeeded in offering up the scapegoat, and now what's this? Hey kids look it's Dave Cameron here to play his let's dissolve parliament card.

    "Yes we've been at it too, but if you put me in number 10 we won't do it any more, scouts honour, I'm here to clean house" said Honest Dave, the Right Honourable Gentleman.

    Honestly, has there ever been a more nakedly populist grasping vacuum of a politician than this man? He makes Tony Blair look like a rank amateur.

  • Comment number 59.

    This really does make my blood boil. Speaker Martin has been absolutely hopeless and a classic case of entrenched Labour people keeping their jobs no matter what. Come the forecoming cull in government and local authorities all these people must lose their jobs, including hopeless teachers, managers who can't manage and the rest. At the end of the day WE pay for all of this hopeless, ineffective infrastructure who see the taxpayer as the ultimate gravy train. What about all these 2-faced MP's who are now saying they were following the rules?? Who was complicit in applying the rules? Speaker Martin!! All they can say now is they will pay monies back to avoid the impression of wrong doing! Wrong doing, it's down right theft! And these people proclaim themselves to be our leaders! It's a complete outrage. Personally I think the Queen should disband parliament, the MP's who have fiddled should be sacked and a new generation of MP's brought onboard from the grass roots for a general election. Thank you Nick Clegg for having the integrity to come out and demand the speaker should go. He should Go Now!!!

  • Comment number 60.

    I would have thought that the Speaker will sleep on it tonight and by the morning realise that the position of Speaker of the House of Commons is larger than he is wnr take the only action available to him, to go before he does any more damage to Parliament

  • Comment number 61.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 62.

    It's great for the country to have a dunderhead as the speaker. He makes everybody fed up. And fed up voters dump their MPs. The longer he stays in place, the better it is for our democracy.

  • Comment number 63.

    Typical Gordon Brown. "Oh God, I have to make a decision ... (thinks) ... I know, I'll kick it into the long grass and arrange a meeting/review/conference/study ... that should buy some time and then the stupid voters will be on to something else ...".

  • Comment number 64.


    after watching that spectacle I can only say that it is now wonder that parliament is in such a state if that man has been in charge for 10 years.

    It is reminiscent of the Crewe by-election where the Labour Party's unique selling point of Ms Dunwoody was that she was an unemployed mother of 5.

    She would seem equally qualified in Labour's terms as Martin.

  • Comment number 65.

    Michael Martin isn't a scapegoat he's Brown's lap dog.

    He'll hang on to his grace and favour home until they have to drag him out kicking and screaming.

    As long as he remains then so will the other disgraced MP's. It's worth about 100000 each to them to last out until the next general election. Seeing as most of them will be kicked out next time round anyway none of them will go gracefully. The longer this is allowed to go on the nastier it will all become. Who said crime doesn't pay?

    In the meantime the country continues to go to the dogs.

  • Comment number 66.


    I look forward to Speaker Martin's forthcoming autobiography "The Easy guide on how to make a crisis worse" (published by Trouser Press). It was a display so inept and pitiful that at one point i actually felt sorry for him. Clearly Brown's paw prints are all over this. Yet again the House of Commons is as distant as dying planet and totally out of step with opinion but Gordon daren't hold a by election.

    A mini straw pool of my circle of friends confirms that Labour supporters will be deserting the party in droves and a general election would see a total wipe out. It was fascinating tonight to watch Kevin Barron MP and that bloated Scottish MSP Lord Faulkes (and speakers best mate) defending the current system on Channel 4 and listen with disgust to hear that Labour is now the true party party of the establishment and the most dogged defender of vested interests in this country. Any pretence to radicalism has gone. I am reminded of a famous quote by a late and well respected socialist -

    "Labour has always been obsessed with winning and retaining a parliamentary majority, so much so that this has become an end in itself. Its corollaries are a disposition towards compromised policies, towards achieving "respectability" and approving media headlines, towards appearing "responsible", "credible" and "reasonable"

    Ralph Miliband was clearly a better judge of the the Labour Party than his two sons. New labour has taken the Labour Party, inside and outside
    Westminster, and turned it into something inept,incompetent and corrupt,it is devoid of ideas and has drained itself and its supporters of any political passion. Roll on the general election

  • Comment number 67.

    I give up, it's no use - I've tried, tried very hard, to be an Angry Andy over MPs expenses but I just can't - we thought they were on 65k a year (too low) when, in fact, they were effectively on 90k a year (about right) with the difference made up by an undercover (because they're scared of the tabloid public) fixed p/a expense allowance - so what? - okay, a little annoying but not much more - that's how I'm seeing this, sorry - a pimple of an issue compared to, say, the banking scandal

  • Comment number 68.

    I'm sure Michael Martin is attempting to hold out until the next election.

    But there's a simple solution: call an immediate election!

    That way us the voters can do some hiring and firing. Those that haven't ripped off the taxpayer will have a chance to stay, those that have been at the front of the trough will get the boot. Whats the point in having a dead duck Parliament which the public don't trust in power for another year. All that will happen is public frustration and anger will continue to increase, as our so-called democratic process fails to remove those that deserve removing.

    We'll have a new speaker, new government and a new mandate to clean up Parliament. Confidence will be restored (temporarily I'm sure). But at least all the old problems and personalities will be behind us.

  • Comment number 69.

    #22 LondonHarris

    Where on earth do you get this idea that "Britain has the Worlds oldest democrary"?

    Ever heard of Iceland? The Althing (930 AD) usually gets the credit for this. The Parliaments of England Scotland etc in the 13th century were part of a wider set of European institutions. Britain (as a political entity) has only existed since 1707.

    Until England?Britain gets rid of the idea that it was somehow the "first and best", you'll never change your system to turn your people from subjects of the Queen in Parliament, to citizens in charge of your own destiny.

  • Comment number 70.

    ON AND ON AND ON .....

    And so it drags on. Martin's not the only offender, but he's the Speaker, after all, and he should certainly go immediately. Not as a scapegoat for the rest - but it is just fitting that he leads the way as they all take their well deserved walk off the plank.

    Promises of reform by Brown, Cameron and Clegg are hollow. They knew what was going on but did not have the moral courage to do anything about.

    Indeed, MP's who otherwise would find it impossible to earn honestly the kind of money they've fiddled on expenses and downright fraud have become pliable puppets. I believe the whole process has been used by No 10 - really since Blair at this scale - as a way of controlling MPs who are now mere cyphers. It is actually part of the system!

    MPs are no longer in Parliament to represent their constituents. Its just a way of making money. They are incapable of solving the problem. They ARE the problem.

    Nothing will change until this rotten lot have been cleared out - apart from the depressingly small number of good eggs who have brought matters to our attention. Well done them! The rest are just spivish jobsworths.

    Only 18 MPs have so far signed the motion calling on the Speaker to resign. Brown said yesterday that "it was a matter for Parliament". Today, the Speaker said the motion could only be debated if the Government made it a substantive motion. Even if they did, they can decided WHEN it is debated. So NOT a matter for Parliament, then. And so it goes .. on and on and on ...

    All this in the middle of a major economic crisis when our Parliamentary representatives should be firing on all cylinders. Instead, we have complete political paralysis. What a country we have become!

  • Comment number 71.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 72.

    Here is one thing that money couldn't buy. Without realising it MP's have instantly increased interest in politics.

    Never before has there been a political subject which you can bring up on any trian, plane or bus with a total stranger and you get an immediate conversation starter - united in the disgust of this unfolding drama, any age,any sex, any creed or colour - it's even a subject the rich and poor alike can agree.

    Politics has never been so interesting - I can't wait to see what's going to happen next.....

    It's so much better than any soap on TV - because EVERYBODY really is talking about it.

  • Comment number 73.


    You're part of the Westminster village, the political machine. We as the plebs and the prolateriat have absolutely no voice and no chance of making our views known.

    Please please please, can you print out this blog in full and give it personally to Michael Martin. Maybe then, he might realise that it's not just the "media village" who think he's a dead loss, but the British people, and maybe, just maybe then, he might have the decency to throw in the towel!!! (then again, I wouldn't bank on it!)

  • Comment number 74.

    What right does this hack have of headlining this piece 'A question of when, not if'. Why do we need your opinion? What are your qualifications? Who elected you? How much of our money has been spent on your salary and your expenses?

    I dont think the BBC should be adding to the pressure that is already on the speaker and the members of the House of Commons. The pressure, if there is any, should come from voters only. If MPs react to the media rather than their own constituents, this will be another blow to our democracy.

    I think the BBC should report on facts and rather than indulging in this self-fulfilling speculation.

    I think that Nick Robinson should be sacked. That should be an imminent 'when' and certainly not an 'if'

  • Comment number 75.

    Now the Fees Office have been exposed by the Sunday Times to be conspiring with MPs to fiddle expenses the people in that office will look to share the blame.

    So expect them to reveal the Speakers instructions to the Fees Office about how to treat the MP expense claims ie generously.

    Once that becomes public expect the police to start making arrests, including the Speaker.

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 77.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 78.

    Mr Martin does appear to have been caught with his socks down but only because he failed to pull them up!
    Fear not for Mr Cameron has charged to our rescue with an all new ethical approach.
    Is the telegraph going to publish details of expence claims for the final four years of the last conservative government, maybe the independent will.
    Mr Martin and all MPs who have acted improperly (if honourable) should step aside now in order that our democracy is preserved.
    If they dont, but instead try and wait until the next general election in the hope the electorate will have forgot the country could be heading for an uncertain future.

  • Comment number 79.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 80.

    "Even some of his critics fear that he is being made a scapegoat"......

    .....and to all the other bloggers who think that everyone's just picking on Gorbals Mick.


    I put this up on the last blog but the Moderator chose to close it just as things were getting interesting.

    Never mind, onto the next blog and I'm going to repeat this quickly before the government propoganda machine succeeds in closing this one down as well and moves onto the next.

    This is not a personal criticism but generally I am getting tired of this short sighted line of argument.

    Just because you ask for the Speaker to resign does not neccessarily imply that you allow tainted MPs to carry on.

    Forcing the Speaker to resign does not mean he is being made a scapegoat.

    Making the Speaker resign does not divert attention away from moats, swimming pools or tennis courts (see I was able to say those words myself without any hint of embarassment); it merely moves us on the next stage, a GE I hope so that we can have a mass clear out and a New Labour meltdown.

    When the Speaker resigns, it only means that the first step towards restoring public trust begins.

    The MPs decide the future of the Speaker, the people decide the future of MPs; in other words the constituents will decide if their MP has behaved or misbehaved, whether they are saint or sinner.

    If a disgraced MP is deselected, the party office merely puts up a 'clean' candidate.

    In other words, when the Speaker resigns and swings in the wind at the city gates, he will be one of the many snouts who will not be returning to Westminster; he will not be the only one.

    As he will not be the only one, he will not, repeat not, be a scapegoat.

    Hopefully, those MPs who are left, having been re-elected at the GE which will follow the Speaker's resignation, will have the nous to know that the people will not tolerate trough-like behaviour in future, will not tolorate anything other than transparency and will have to adopt non-partisan independent bodies to decide future pay structures.

    By the way there is a march on Saturday not just for one scapegoat but for all 650 scapegoats.

    See you there!

  • Comment number 81.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 82.

    In an previous post on the subject of Speaker Martin today, you equated Esther Rantzen´s possible candidacy in the next election with Martin Bell´s election in an earlier sleaze era.

    I can only hope that your capacity to distinguish between parties, policies, principles [should there be any left] etc. is much more refined than your apparent incapacity to distinguish between a respected reporter (yes, there are a very few in that category) and a celebrity hanger on.

  • Comment number 83.

    if one of the main consequences of the MP expenses "scandal" (a.k.a. the tabloid public refusing to pay them properly) is that we get Esther Rantzen standing (and being elected) as an Independent Member, then I'm surely not alone in wishing that the whole thing had stayed under wraps

  • Comment number 84.

    In my view the MP's should be paid 75k taxed plus 30k tax free for second

    homes in london only, greater london MP's 7k tax free as expenses.


    BTW Martin should RESIGN ASAP.

  • Comment number 85.

    There is no question that the speaker must go. He is not a scapegoat; his removal will not solve the problem. However, he was a major part of the problem because of his own indefensible expense claims, his resistance to the publication of MP's expenses, and above all his pathetic handling of the ensuing public reaction to the Telegraph disclosures. He has to go before anyone will have any faith that things can get better. Then we can turn our attention to sorting out the whole mess - and that will involve the destruction of more than a few political careers and probably more than one criminal prosecution. So be it.

    Out of the rubble, however, may come a new political order. Scotland and Wales were able to construct modern political assemblies through devolution in the 21st C. England was not so fortunate, having to make do with the Westminster model which had evolved over hundreds of years, but which is no longer fit for a modern democracy. Perhaps the unfinished business of devolution can now take place, with England achieving true control of her own domestic affairs like her neighbours, and the UK parliament being reduced to a size necessary for reserved matters only. It will have to happen sometime and may as well be now. What is essential is that this re-construction is not left to politicians alone, but the people really have their say.

    Meanwhile, the true architect of this unholy mess, a certain Tony Blair, who saw fit to sideline parliament, run the country like a private club, tear up long-standing political conventions and shred the British constitutional settlement in both houses, continues to escape all censure in the media coverage of this disaster. Britain has become a laughing stock around the world, and nobody seems to be dealing with the major problems of the day during a re-run of the Great Depression. Wonderful!! Time for a general election now.

  • Comment number 86.

    The Public and the tax payers of this country demand the following as a minimum:

    1, All OVER claims paid back going back since the MP entered Parliament.

    2, The Police brought in for cases such as Mortgage payment claims when the Mortgage was already paid off, and charges for fraud brought on behalf of the nation, if laws have been broken.

    3, A BASIC salary and nothing else for all MP's of £100k with Cabinet ministers receive £135K.NO CLAIMS for expenses allowed at all for anything.

    4, Any MP found to have misled the Tax office or the House to be forced OUT of the house of Parliament and be barred permanently from ever re-standing as an MP and a Bye-Election called in their constituency.

    5, Any house that was "flipped" must be "tagged" so that when it is sold the Taxpayer receives a % of the sale price.

    Martin has let down the country even more than individual MPs and to say today they all must share the blame equally is a disgrace.His position has a built in higher responsibility threshold and those MPs that have not done anything wrong must be seething after what he stated today.

    I have always been proud to be English yet the more we see of this disgraceful shower, makes me feel ashamed to be English...what a joke this country has become.


  • Comment number 87.

    I don't really see what all the fuss is about. Surely if Gordon Brown appoints an "expenses tsar" the whole thing will be sorted, just as with every other major problem?

  • Comment number 88.

    #58 Chad

    "Honestly, has there ever been a more nakedly populist grasping vacuum of a politician than this man? He (DC) makes Tony Blair look like a rank amateur.


    Methinks you are taking this whole affair a tad badly.

    Learn to lose with grace and start looking for another party to support; your old one is about to go into meltdown or have I got the wrong end of the stick?

    We are all opportunists. If an opportunity presents itself, what are you supposed to do?

    Sit there and do nothing but say:

    "It's not fair; opportunity passed me by?"

    Do you remember the time you went for a job? Did you walk into the building and create a position for yourself by extolling your virtues?

    Of course, you didn't. You applied for a position that was offered by the employer.

    Well I want you to know now that when you were accepted for that position, it meant that many others were disappointed for not getting that position, you little opportunist you.....

  • Comment number 89.


    I am going to request that MPs return goods bought to the people before 1st July or I intend to use he Tort of Conversion )law against them. They can return goods and cash to Westminster Lobby where the public can collect them

  • Comment number 90.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 91.

    #69 Oldnat

    Oldest parliament is not the same as oldest democracy.

    If "democracy" means government by the people it's arguable that there has never been a democracy anywhere in the world in any substantial state or city.

    We certainly have never had a true democracy in any of the countries which make up the UK. The current Westminster government was supported by 36% of those voting and 25% of the electorate, those over 18 registered to vote. The SNP had 32% of the vote in Scotland, though they are at least recognised as a minority administration.

    BTW, how about Tynwald on the Isle of Man: "Tynwald is usually said in the Isle of Man to be the oldest parliament in continuous existence in the world, having been established by 979 (though its roots may go back to the late 800s as the "thing" of Norse raiders not yet permanently resident on the island) and having continued to be held since that time without interruption." (Wikipedia)

  • Comment number 92.

    Erm, sorry to be pedantic but isn't the answer to "is it a question of when, not if?" necessarily "if"?

    I blame the editors ...

  • Comment number 93.

    Hello! Gordon's back after hobnobbing with the celebs today. Much more fun thsn running the country.

    Someone's given him another load of verbal trash to spout out on how Mr High and Mighty is going to save parliament now. Probably about ten years too late.

    If he hadn't trashed it in the first place it wouldn't have needed saving of course.

    I have never come across anyone else who could trash so much and save so little.

    He could write a book on it.

  • Comment number 94.

    I found myself recalling these words:
    "This is a moment to seize. The Kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us."
    (Oh all right I had to look them up; I merely remembered their existence)
    How prophetic, since they were uttered by one A. Blair in October 2001. Possibly the truest thing he ever said, even if the timing was a touch premature.
    Into the valley of death rode the six hundred and fifty...
    As an aside, I apologise for the lack of apostrophes in my last posting; I wrote it in "Word" and for some reason they vanished in the copy & paste process. I won't let it happen again.

  • Comment number 95.

    Democracy in this country is a joke. Things will turn ugly soon, mark my words. These guys just don't get it, do they?

  • Comment number 96.

    #91 badgercourage

    I'll accept your points.

    My principal point was the same as yours. Pretending that England/Britain is the oldest, the best etc has locked the English people into being proud of their status as not having sovereignty, and imagining that their constitution was anything other than a cover for the ruling classes to keep ruling.

  • Comment number 97.

    Nick ,the only saving grace for Speaker martin is Gordon Browns fear of elections .
    The prospect of a by-election in Glasgow against a rampant and extremely popular SNP is not for Gordon Brown.
    Mick Martin will be left in situ till after General election.
    Gordon Brown always puts what is best for Gordon Brown above all else.
    We need a new speaker ,unfortunately the needs of The labour Party will once again act against the British people.

  • Comment number 98.

    #67 Saga

    "a pimple of an issue compared to, say, the banking scandal"


    Absolutely right Saga. I agree with you. Surprising but true.

    However I thinks it's a bit like how jail birds regard each other when they're incarcerated in their bubble away from the real world.

    You have the thief who looks down on the one off murderer who looks down on the serial killer. They all give each other a bit of stick until one day the paedophile joins them and then they all turn on him, united in their revulsion.

    They are all as bad as each other but I think that if the MPs had been behaving themselves in a proper manner, they would have prevented the bankers taking the micky; instead they saw the money being made, loads of it, and they thought I'll have my share.

    If they and the bankers had ever stopped to think, it wasn't their share. It never was their share.

    It was mine, yours and the rest of the country who were extorted 'until the pips squeaked'.

    No more. It's all over.....until the next time.

    As for the bankers, this still needs to be sorted out.

    When I have been calling for change, it's not just Speaker Martin and the MPs, it's the entire establishment.

    Where I disagree with a lot of bloggers is that they seem to think that the establishment is a bunch of Old Etonians and other public school boys. How wrong they are!

    The establishment, mainly since Thatcher, now comes in all shapes and sizes and guises because she gave everyone more opportunity (more opportunists!) although I don't think the main thrust of her message was to do so at the expense (funny how that word keeps popping up) of others.

    A lot of bloggers try to make this crisis into a thing about New Labour and Tory, left and right, blue and red, rich and poor, public school and state school, public sector and private sector and so on and on and on.....

    It is no such thing at all!

    It about democracy and it is about freedom.

    Whatever your background, colour, creed, gender or faith, everyone seems to be united in wanting rid of the corrupt and immoral sytems that have infected our society, not just Parliament but all the other so called elite establishments.

    The people want the ownership of these establishments returned and the status quo reclaimed.

    Only when this has been done can we start slagging each other off properly once more and we recommence the class battle.

  • Comment number 99.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 100.

    I actually feel deeply sorry for Speaker Martin. He has made some mistakes, but no worse than the MP's who are turning on him - in fact, many have behaved worse than he has. The MP's are guilty and scared, and like any scared mob, they turn on a scapegoat, and place all the blame on him, instead of taking the blame and responsibility themselves. Watching him, bewildered and confused, facing the MP's quite unjustified anger, I was reminded of a pack of hungry dogs, faced with the loss of their prey, turning on the weakest one of their own.


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