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He failed to lead

Nick Robinson | 11:48 UK time, Tuesday, 19 May 2009

In the end, he had no choice.

If Michael Martin had not decided to resign as Speaker, he would, eventually, have faced a formal motion of no confidence.

Denied that debate yesterday, MPs from all sides expressed their lack of confidence in him in the only way left open to them - telling him to his face that he was part of the problem and not the solution.

The Speaker's position depends on his unquestioned authority over the House of Commons. Michael Martin's authority finally died yesterday.

The Speaker's chair

Some will complain that he has been made a scapegoat for the failings of individual MPs.

Others will insist that this Glaswegian sheet metal worker was the victim of class-based prejudice and snobbery.

There is some truth in both those charges.

However, the reason he has been driven from office is much more simple than that. At a time when the Commons desperately needed leadership, he failed to lead.

He failed to see this crisis coming.

He presided over the system which encouraged MPs to fiddle their expenses or to claim them to the max.

He wasted time and money on fighting calls from taxpayers to see what MPs were doing with their money.

He did little to stand up to those MPs who resisted reform.

His reaction to the publication of MPs' expenses was to call in the police and to attack those MPs who criticised him, rather than using his position to apologise to the country or to speak to MPs on behalf of the electorate.

Michael Martin acted too often as the shop steward of the Commons and too rarely as if he held one of the highest offices in the land.

When the Commons was exposed as indulging in old-style Spanish practices, the shop steward simply had to go.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Hopefully your next blog entry will lead with the title "They failed to lead". One down, many to follow...

  • Comment number 2.

    #91 badgercourage

    "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"

    Exactly - but it's amazing how many people rush to defend something they think they have - without actually checking what it is they actually have.

    Democracy is a word which has been dirtied by the so-called Democratic systems around the world.

    It's the same way people mis-conceive 'anarchy' as being 'chaos' - but it actually means 'without a ruler' - in line with Monarchy (one ruler), oligarchy (ruled by the few) - which co-incidently seems to be how we're actually ruled here.

    I mean with all the vote rigging scandals and the lack of transparency over the years - can we even believe that the results actually reflect the people's will?
    More people abstain from voting than vote for the 'winning party' in this country - doesn't that scream 'this system isn't representative'.

    It's convenient to blame the voter for this - but I blame the people who have the money to stand, because out of the 600 or so MP's, there is only a handful I would be inclined to vote for - and sadly none of them stand in my area.

    ....and MP's seriously think that 'tinkering with the expenses system' is going to solve anything?

    This is a crisis of confidence in our leaders - sparked by the expenses revelations. All expenses provide is the spark - but this has been a long time coming.

    We started with the speaker - now it's time to move on to the rest of the 'rats in their nest'

  • Comment number 3.

    What on earth does this matter have to do with class warfare?

    Betty Boothroyd manged to hold high office without the same slurs.

    People are dissatisfied with Mihale Martin because of his performance not his class.

    Just as they are dissatisfied with Gron Brown because of his performance...

    I rest my case.

    Dissolve parliament.

  • Comment number 4.

    Nick, let's hope he is the first and not the last to go.
    The only irony is that he is now likely to be elevated to 'the other place' and be able to carry on as before.

  • Comment number 5.

    The Speaker had to go he was trying too defend the rotten system.

    Give the people a General Election!

  • Comment number 6.


    He was, quite simply, the wrong choice in the first place and many people said so at the time.

    In office he was too often seen to be not up to speed; resistant to change; partial; and peevish whenever he didn't get his own way.

    Yes, some of the criticism had a whiff of snobbery but if you can't stand the heat...

    Will his expenses now be revealed?

  • Comment number 7.

    The speaker is such an important role, I would like to see a non-party political representative in place.

    One who uses their judgement more and protection of colleagues less.

    There have been so many reasons why Michael Martin should have gone, however, I cannot see GB wanting such an important ally gone before the elections.

    Otherwise how can Gordon continue to use PMQ's as his weekly party political broadcast.

  • Comment number 8.

    "Some will complain that he has been made a scapegoat for the failings of individual MPs.

    Others will insist that this Glaswegian sheet metal worker was the victim of class-based prejudice and snobbery.

    There is some truth in both those charges."

    Oh come on Nick, where do you get this class issue thing from?

    Surely considering how much he earns and claims it should be the working class that despise him for the new labour hypnocracy he takes part in?

  • Comment number 9.


    You should know by now with this shower of a government. Read the small print first! If Mr martin is ennobled or given a huge pay off the public's revulsion over parliamentarians will not only continue but escalate. All MPs intending to canvas on the stump in the forthcoming elections will face a very hostile public. Everyone I have spoken to are united in their contempt.

  • Comment number 10.

    Lets hope the first of many to step down.

    Better still, call an election.

  • Comment number 11.

    OK - technical question....

    As I understand it, the whole of the next day's business after a Speaker resigns is taken up with selecting a new one. So does that mean no PMQs this week? And then it's recess for a week....

    Isn't it convenient for Gordon that the timing of the resignation means that he won't have to answer PMQs for at least another fortnight now, especially since it is highly likely that a new Speaker may actually have the bottle to make him answer a question?

    Had Speaker Martin resigned yesterday (as the smart money seemed to be suggesting), then a new Speaker would have been in place by the end of today, and PMQs would have gone ahead tomorrow as normal. Gordon would have hated that....

    Or am I just being cycnical?

  • Comment number 12.

    He is not the only one 'hanging on' too long.

  • Comment number 13.

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

  • Comment number 14.

    "was the victim of class-based prejudice and snobbery."

    If he had done his job, if he was good at his job, if he had even known the laws and rules about his job he would still be doing it.

    No-one cares about his background it's just the Speaker who keeps bringing up this falacy to try and divert the attention away from the fact he was the worst speaker in living memory.

  • Comment number 15.

    "Others will insist that this Glaswegian sheet metal worker was the victim of class-based prejudice and snobbery.

    There is some truth in both those charges."

    What a load of nonsense! David Mellor said on 5 Live yesterday morning about how George Thomas, one of the most admired and respected Speakers in modern times had grown up with his widowed mother and siblings living in a basement under a miner's house in South Wales in the most horrendous poverty. Yet he fully understood and respected the responsibility of his office and acted accordingly and he had the full and total respect of MP's from all sides as a result. Martin was a poor Speaker not because of his background but because he was a tribal Labour man who put the interests of members above the reputation of Parliament. He is the one who ignored legal advice and went to the high court to try and prevent the release of the expenses data, probably because he knew what horrors it contained.

  • Comment number 16.

    Again we have debate cut off in 'mid sentence'...

    Speaker Martin is not the only person who should be looking at their duties and what the tax paying public expects!

  • Comment number 17.

    I was under the impression that one of the first duties of the Speaker was to protect Parliament as against the Crown (i.e. the Government). Surely the writing was on the wall when Speaker Martin was so fulsomely endorsed by Mr Gordon Brown some time ago.
    Maybe I am being naive and all that was history, but do we live in better times now?

  • Comment number 18.

    From a rational voter's and taxpayer's incentive: CLASS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT

    When you're not up to the job, that has nothing to do with your postcode

    If you fail to make the final in the 100m competition at the Olympics, you just won't win gold, and you shouldn't no matter from which background you are.

    Martin lost all credibility and lost all sympathy to get the benefit of the doubt. He was beyond doubt on the wrong side: he let this expenses culture fester and showed no leadership to change it, he tried to exempt it all from FoI, he arranged for a nice exit payment, he arranged for his son to get his constituency seat and he fired one of his previous PR gurus who advised a change of the expenses handling (link provided)

    Those who spin this as class warfare are the worst perpetrators of it.

  • Comment number 19.

    Right outcome but the role of the Clerk to the Commons should be examined critically as it is obvious there was a near total absence of assertive advice and challenge by the Fees office to the troughing tendency of Members. As far as Labour M.P.'s are concerned the behaviour of some of them is appalling with the only pathetic mitigation that the ethos of accumulating wealth by whatever means is entirely in tune with the beliefs of New Labour!

  • Comment number 20.

    Nick, You write as if the Speaker has already resigned, but I understand an official statement to the House has yet to be made later today.

    How ironic if his departure has been communicated by a leak.

    If it is true, the Speaker's departure will make very little difference.

    It is quite right that expensesgate has been exposed. It's a huge scandal, but the real story is the disaster facing our economy thanks to Brown.

    Meanwhile MPs are happy to let the Speaker take all the flak because it takes the pressure off them. Also from Labour's point of view, it means the press has stopped focussing on the economy

    We will see what the Speaker says. The wolves are circling and it's all rather nasty. But if MPs (particularly Labour) actually cared about the state of the country, they would be devoting their efforts to getting rid of Brown.

  • Comment number 21.

    Thank you for a good and well written piece. In some ways I have some sympathy for what Austin Mitchell said that it wasn't his fault. True, but he was completely out of his depth in this situation and this was an inevitable "first step" to clearing up the mess.

  • Comment number 22.


    "I was under the impression that one of the first duties of the Speaker was to protect Parliament as against the Crown (i.e. the Government)."

    I think that you are not looking at this quite literally enough, the "Crown" is not the Government, although the Government does act on behalf of the Crown - hence why the Crown's representative (Black Rod) is denied entry to the Commons by the Speaker(s officials) when the Monarch demands that they attend his/her presence in the Lords.

  • Comment number 23.

    Sorry but you really are totally out of touch with the real world.Do you actually believe that us the taxpayers believe that Mr Martin is the victim of class welfare or a scapegoat? He has only been kept in his position through his stance as the commons "shop steward" by appeasing alll parties.
    Also lets not forget that he was a sop appointment by the commons to one Gordon Brown by our then PM. The man has been out of his depth from day 1 and finally the truth is out. He was the man supposed to be upholding the integrity and impartiality of the house of commons.He has absolutely failed on both counts. Never has one of your articles so annoyed me through its bare faced apology to this individual. Let us hope that our next government starts to investigate costs of expenses in all our public bodies to save the 70 billion currently wasted on Quangos,special advisors etc.

  • Comment number 24.

    ExpatDinosaur (21)

    Wow, you're even more OM than The Guardian! If your salary is paid by the taxpayer, which I suspect it is, I'm at least not contributing to it.

    By the way, please note that again Brown failed to take the lead (please, don't hide behind the parliamentary rulebook) and failed to grasp how angry taxpayers are!

  • Comment number 25.

    When Mr. Martin leaves his post, he will do democracy a big favour in this country. And that is because the will-he-go or will-he-hang on argument was beginning to deflect the hunters from their real and legitimate quarry : the expenses-abusing MP's themselves. Nothing and No-one should stand in the way of the retribution they so richly deserve. Apologies will not suffice. Writing cheques will not suffice. Jail is the penalty some of them have courted and jail is the fate they must now share. And for those whose actions amount to greed rather than criminality; they should be discarded by the political parties that they have so blatantly failed.

  • Comment number 26.

    None of the four 'favourites'for the role of speaker will have an ounce of legitimacy if anyone of them takes on the role.The reason is simple - they were all fully aware of what was going on, as was Cameron, Clegg and Brown.Indeed at least two of them have been the subject of criticism over the issue of reckless and irresponsible use of taxpayers money.
    The use of every penny of taxpayers money should be fully transparent to every member of the public. A good start would be with The Royal Household, and the House of Lords,they are real professionals at spending taxes contributed by hard working families.

  • Comment number 27.


    "he [Martin] was completely out of his depth in this situation and this was an inevitable"

    Indeed, as I said in that other blog (that the BBC has cut down in it's prime...), it was his inability to do his job that did for him, not the expenses issue - quite frankly, a 'man of his experience' (to coin the phrase he use yesterday) should have known what type of motion and where it will stand on the order paper without having to take advice from a Clark, it's a basic understanding that is required for the job. Had the Speaker only been in the job 8 weeks then most would coincide that advice might need to be sort, but for someone who has been in the job 8 years and that after 22 years as a MP it's just not acceptable.

  • Comment number 28.

    How about a Poem for the Ex-Speaker:

    'Ordure, Ordure'

    There goes Mick Martin, back o'er the border,
    No longer will he say "Order, Order",
    Expenses for the rich, all claiming for more,
    And letting the Plod break down Damian's door,
    A failure as Speaker, and now it's his time,
    All confidence lost due to all of his crimes.
    His partisan ways a disgrace to the Chamber,
    He gave Opposition MPs the cold shoulder,
    Though yesterday he tried to plead to the masses,
    He'd always just tried to make war between classes
    Though MPs all cheer as his time approaches,
    They should know it won't save the other cockroaches.
    The Speaker refused to turn his course,
    He waffled on while faith was lost,
    So though his passing is no great shakes,
    Knowing he's next the Prime Minister quakes.

    (With apologies to W H Auden)

  • Comment number 29.

    In describing Mr. Martin as a scapecoat, I was not suggesting that he was innocent. He was guilty of at least trying to cover-up something which needed to be revealed. But he was punished in the hope that others, far more guilty would escape punishment. That is why I described him a scapegoat, and I still do. I believe that his resignation will take some of the heat out of this expenses scandal and that as a result focus will be lost and some of the baying pack will get away scott-free when they should be sacked.

  • Comment number 30.

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

  • Comment number 31.

    If class based snobbery has contributed to his downfall who are we to expect to take his place, what about Brian Sewell MP or Dr David Starkey MP?

  • Comment number 32.

    lets face it he should never have been appointed in the first place... he was put there as a socialist placeman, he was never impartial, just need to watch PMQ's to see that.....We need a totally impartial speaker, honour is more important than class......

  • Comment number 33.

    You may recall last year when Mr Martin was in hot water over his and his wife's expenses, he fought tooth and nail to retain his publicly-funded index-linked 'life' pension.

    It automatically entitles him to half his ministerial salary, regardless of how long he has served. Do you think he had a premonition?

    By the way, both Mr Brown and Lord Chancellor Jack Straw, the only two others in the land who had the same perk, changed their pension arrangements to a final salary, but not Mr Martin.

    I imagine he's stepping down rather than being fired, so shades of Fred the Shred.

    OK, a different financial scale, but arguably he's watched over just as big a crisis and one that will have lasting ramifications well after RBS has been repackaged and sold off to a global bank

  • Comment number 34.

    Michael Martin acted too often as the shop steward of the Commons and too rarely as if he held one of the highest offices in the land.

    More like shop steward for Gordon Brown and the Labour Party. He was voted in for partisan reasons and behaved in partisan fashion. Just another example of the downgrading of Parliament since 1997.

    Does anybody realy believe that his actions were independent of an uninfluenced by No.10 ?

    Now that he has become an embarrassment rather than an asset, except as a scapegoat - it's a matter for the House, not the Government says Gordon (Moral Compass) Brown.

    Martin has to go, for sure, but how much better and more cleansing if we were to have an immediate General Election to clear out the stable of existing MPs and have a new Government as well as a new Speaker.

  • Comment number 35.

    Well this all goes to underscore what a 'trivial' matter these MP expenses really are - as Stephen Fry so sagely told us all a few days ago!!

    I mean, wars and things like that are important, not silly little stuff like our parliamentary system crumbling to pieces!

    And it's all those damned journalists fault! Why these MPs should be practically canonised for their integrity and morality!

    Or, perhaps not.

  • Comment number 36.


    I have mixed feelings regarding speaker Martin, but now he's been hounded out, so it doesn't matter too much, I have to say that I admire him for the years he has been a MP and obviously a well liked MP otherwise he would never have been the speaker,I feel that really he was never the man for that particlar job, but nevertheless I also feel that he has been made a scapegoat, yes he was to a point guilty but not even in the same class as some of them, but as I say he's gone now and I wish him well.
    I spent some time this morning listening to radio five were Cameron was being questioned by the public, well he convinced me of one thing, he is probably the most efficient bandwagon jumper to have ever sat in parliament , I lost count of the times that he said, I was the first to say this or the first to do that.Call an election was his battle cry, no answers to what he was actually going to do with the likes of Francis Maud or a answer to his own claims that he made despite being a multi millionaire.
    What a wonderful time to call for a election, in the midst of a world recession and with all this going on regarding expenses an ideal time to leave the country rudderless, its the statement of a novice.
    He's hoping,that he can prevent the disclosure of second jobs coming to light,unless he can get into power to prevent this, which will inevitably damage the Tories. It isn't going to work Dave your attempts to show that you are man of the people are so transparent that its becoming a joke, but it isn't really funny it just shows that there is no alternative government, and that in itself is not good for the country.
    Maybe later in the year there should be an election but with every MP who has made a unreasonable claim not even to be allowed to stand.This will give the untarnished MPs a chance to prove their worth whatever party they come from but with a wage that gives them a chance to have dignity,and prevents the house being turned into a millionairs club.
    Getting back to the speaker I think that the deputy speaker would be a great choice and also Madam deputy speaker, but unfortunately I don't think their eligible.

  • Comment number 37.

    The simple truth was that looking at his bumbling performance yesterday when a true `tour de force' was required displayed the reality that Mr. Speaker Martin was well out of his depth and close to drowning.

    How long he has been out of his depth I will leave to the historians, but it needs to be made clear that being a political placeman is not enough in what is the highest office in the land that a commoner can aspire to without being in government.

    I suggest that the Commons think very hard as they appoint his successor. If they get that wrong as well then they would have turned a constitutional crisis into a disaster.

  • Comment number 38.

    I agree that Lord Tonypandy (formerly George) former speaker was a truly great speaker and worthy of that office despite or perhaps because of his inauspicious beginnings.

    In those days we didn't see or hear of the workings in Parliament so often and we certainly didn't have "our say". The internet was not yet available to all, nor was there wall to wall TV ("moving wallpaper" so to speak). Rightly or wrongly the manjority had a sort of trust and let them get on with it - what the eye doesn't see the heart doesn't grieve over so to speak. Naive probably but that's how it was. Easier in some ways and definitely less complicated.

    We are living in uncharted and extraordinary times and God knows how it will pan out or the speed with which the public will become disenchanted with new arrangements and start baying for blood again.

    But that is life as we now know it as we move forward. It is difficult to trust anyone because we are all human and all fallable. Life and politics will never be perfect but how boring if it would be if it were!

  • Comment number 39.

    Do you always have to spin the Labour Party line every time - the typical Leftist smoke and mirrors that he was made a scapegoat and that this was because of prejudice and snobbery. Both George Thomas and Betty Boothroyd were well liked and respected in the Commons, nothing to do with their working class backgrounds but because of their integrity and wisdom.
    Speaker Martin was simply a party man put into a position well above his capabilities. He showed no interest in the job other than the perks that came with it. Earning 142K and in a lavishly decorated grace and favour home he still felt entitled to claim a 'second home allowance' on his constituency home back in Edinburgh and has used his position to promote the interests of his family.
    It is an utter disgrace that under his supervision the fees office has colluded with MPs to maximise their expenses. And NO NO NO to those people who say that MPs are underpaid - they are not. They are among the best paid MPs in Europe and have consistently offloaded their responsibilities to Brussels, reduced their own working hours, yet increased their own salaries and have a huge pension entitlement to boot. Compare their earnings to what a pensioner is supposed to live on!!
    Their claims are down to greed not need. Speaker Martin is an example of that. We simply cannot afford these parasites and need to review Council fat cats earnings downwards not MPs salaries upwards!!

  • Comment number 40.

    A total disgrace to the office of Speaker. He needs to go asap as does the current Government. If Brown had one shred of decency, he would ask for a dissolution of Parliament and call an election.
    One can dream, I suppose!

  • Comment number 41.


    "Jail is the penalty some of them have courted and jail is the fate they must now share"

    Nah, they will never go to jail, why, would you vote for Christmas if you were a turkey, there is a distinct lack of jail space in the UK and I doubt any MP will vote to build any more with this hanging over their necks!... [/irony]

  • Comment number 42.

    It is absolutely right that this political dinosaur with his angry shop steward approach should go and that a new, respectable, forward-thinking person takes over. The new Speaker should be squeaky clean and someone who is respected all round. Maybe a well-liked person who is nearing the end of their political career like Kenneth Clarke.

  • Comment number 43.

    I'd like to pick up on some issues raised in the previous thread that, of course, is now closed - one of the points. Another example of the mods acting like Big Brother. Does Nick know or approve of this action?

    A point has been raised about the possible slection of Martin's son as his successor. Hopefully the voters will sort that one out when the opportunity occurs.

    Another point was raised about having a professional speaker. This has merit. It seems to me tha the constituency represented by the Speaker loses out to some extent since he cannot, by reason of his position, act like other MPs in the house. This would have the added benefit of removing this important post from the realm of party politics.

  • Comment number 44.


    How true. Class does, indeed have nothing to do with it.

    Unfortunately, the class warriors in the PLP have only got this particular straw to grasp at.

    As for the House of Lords... so much for Bliar reforming it. Get rid of one load of ennobled cronies (the hereds) and replace it with another bunch of cronies, who will then sell amendments for cash.

    The atmosphere seems to be getting quite volatile at the moment... looks like something is being planned for saturday, akin to what happened in Iceland... have a look at Guido's or Old Holborns blog for more info. Maybe volatile isnt the right choice of word... how about "febrile"?

  • Comment number 45.

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

  • Comment number 46.


    With our parliament in utter disarray, and our government refusing to call a general election to satisfy public demand, is it feasible that the Queen could dissolve parliament?

  • Comment number 47.

    Spot on Nick, he behaved exactly like a shop steward fron the bad old days. The snobbery excuse is just another throwback to that era with it's class driven politics of public sacrifice for the many, while the few enjoyed the trappings without actually caring. Martin supporters present him as a victim of predjuidice, when in actuality he is simply not up to the job. A typical apparatchick promoted above his level and unable to function effectively. The farcical performance yesterday by Martin after 10 years in the job illustrates how little he actually understands. How could he not see those questions coming and adequately prepare himself? At least then he could have looked competent and knowledgable.

  • Comment number 48.

    Does this not exemplify the murky state of politics in this country?
    Several hours before an announcement is to be made to our elected leaders in their formal place of assembly, the media can tell us what is going to be said. Under FOI, Nick, are you going to tell us who briefed whom? Was the briefing initiated by the media or by a politician? If so, who?
    Maybe we should just dispense with all these frivolities like parliaments and elections and just let Paxman, Murdoch and rest of the Media Grandees feed us with pre-screened partly-digested tidbits now and again, just to maintain the illusion we have some interest in the matter.

  • Comment number 49.

    I find myself way down on the list who have stated that your 'victim of class snobbery' claim is completely without basis. Please provide evidence of one MP or member of the public who held this view.

    Michael Martin was out of his depth and even before MP's expenses became the flavour of the week his affairs had been severely questioned. He therefore simply did not have the authority or ability to have the confidence of the public or Parliment.

  • Comment number 50.


    Come on lets have more about the timing of this and PMQ's etc and the elections in June.

    There is more to this than meets what you are actually reporting ?

    Timing and events and promises for the future are all important here.

  • Comment number 51.

    Simple Points

    1) The Speakers departure is the beginning of the exodus of unacceptable MP's, not the end

    2) Michael Martin should not be rewarded with a peerage - he failed to provide leadership or moral direction at a time of national crisis

    3) Constantly going back as some MP's are and saying 'Its not in the House of Commons way of doing things' is NOT acceptable. The rules are meant to serve the nation not the other way round. If it's broke, mend it

    4) A General Election should be called to allow us the opportunity to sweep away the dross infesting our public life

    5) a Constitution should be drawn up

    And thats just the beginning

  • Comment number 52.

    Not good enough Mr Speaker!
    Why announce a resignation is to be made? If you are going go and go now! What you are doing here is destabilizing the entire system leaving everyone in limbo, instead of 'lets get on with the job' and besides a new Speaker might want things done differently.

    Being the 'back legs' of the Commons not once did we here you ask 'Who signed the cheques' in the expenses issue and it is with interested seeing what is on your recites, or will THEY be blacked out like it would have been if you have your way?

    By staying you are prolonging the agony, lets get the things done and the house back in order.... If I was doing the job I would expect to see independent auditors, along side the Taxman and the bailiffs with Judges on standby. Why wasn't it stopped and attempted to be concealled?

  • Comment number 53.

    Based on the current status quo, perhaps the best person to be the speaker of the House should not be an MP. Maybe we should have a Judge, QC or barrister. Who better to know about upholding the law than Judges, after all they are the people who would know the Constitution best.

  • Comment number 54.

    Nothing here to explain the part Brown played in the demise of his pal or exactly when speaker Martin will go - though you are getting to the root of the reasons why he couldn't hang on!

    I would suggest it's all down to tribal loyalties but Brown faced a stark choice - either let the speaker go or Brown would have been dragged down with him.

    The issue now is when will he quit - leave it until that general election or quit now and risk a risky by-election? The money's on before the summer recess. Does that mean an early election?

  • Comment number 55.

    ...and btw, he can take that poncey outfit with him as well!

    We don't need that type of tradition anymore. Scrap all the other outfits, scrap the wigs and above all scrap the titles and the ermine. Speaker Martin may have been seduced by all the pomp crap that goes with the current parliament and he probably deluded himself that he was more important than the position of the office he held.

    The people on here simply demanding an election are also either deluded or have some vested interests in the current system being maintained.

    We need a completely new system. And we need it now.

  • Comment number 56.

    He should never have been Speaker in the first place: when his story is written, I hope people draw attention to the appalling partisan nature of his election, that broke with convention and ensured that the house elected someone without the widespread support required.

    Also, it has nothing to do with class really. Betty Boothroyd was hardly born with a silver spoon in her mouth, and was a woman to boot, but never was a word said about her because she managed it all with no major issues.

  • Comment number 57.

    Now there are lots of calls for a General Election.

    The Tories slogan is 'Time For Change' which implies that a change of the governing political party will somehow solve our current problems.

    It will not because there are deep underlying 'structural' faults with the political system in this land.

    The Scots and the Welsh have shown the English a way forward by devolving power away from the centre.

    This process will continue if the Scots vote for full independence in November 2010, which incidentally will probably mean that 'Dave' will be the last Prime Minister of Britain and, by default, the first Prime Minster of England.

    Even if the Scots do not take that step in November 2010, I believe the tide of political history is flowing that way and that we will eventually witness the 'United Kingdom' fragmenting back into its primary constituent countries.

    It would be better to start planning for that political outcome now but there are very powerful vested interests that wish to defy the will of the home countries peoples, especially the English, and continue with the zombie political entity Britain for as long as possible.

  • Comment number 58.


    "I suggest that the Commons think very hard as they appoint his successor. If they get that wrong as well then they would have turned a constitutional crisis into a disaster."

    There is an argument for MPs to ask for the two deputy Speakers to 'man the fort' until the next General election (which is now less than 12 months away, and a great slice of that is taken up by the summer recess) and then a new Speaker be elected after - many of the electorate do not consider that any MP has a mandate now, hence the numerous calls for a general election (calls for which I do not agree with), thus any Speaker elected now will not have the mandate of many electors never mind MPs...

  • Comment number 59.

    I see Mr brown has declared 'No Labour MP who defied the rules on expenses will be allowed to stand at the next election'.

    As i understand it many MPs who the public feel are guilty of wrong doing
    are not actually in breach of the rules of the house. So it seems a rather empty statement.

    Moving on to the speaker, Mr Martin's position was clearly untenable given his costly efforts to prevent mps expense details being released.

    As for a replacement, there is one back bench MP. John Mann (labour but not associated with New Labour) who saw this crises looming and has acually campaigned for a number of years for reform of the expenses system and is on record as doing so. To me he seems the most sensible potential candidate, which probably means he hasn't got a snowballs...

    One final thought, there is no point in holding a general election until all aspects of dodgy MP behaviour are out in the open, so its imperative that all mps accross all parties declare their earnings & hours worked in second jobs. Then,alongside complete disclosure of all expenses, the public may finally be in a position to decide which MPs are worth keeping and which should go.

  • Comment number 60.

    Let this be known as the Glorious Revolution 2009. The restraint of the Public and the Monarch is to be commended so far, but to underline the seriousness of this event Martin and MP's found guilty if not jailed must be ejected without Honour ot Favour and NO Pension.
    This is only right under the circumstances, reflecting the public mood and gravitas.

  • Comment number 61.

    Seems to me that the only 'class' here was money. For years Labour has made it a point to point out that the conservative are the party for the rich toffs.

    What can they now say when the number of Labour MPs have abused the expenses system when representing the working class.

    It is human nature that all human beings want to have a better life and
    more money to be able to do that.

    The current Labour party has wanted to achieve everything the Conservatives achieved and lo and behold once they get there they have now done what they use to accuse the Conservatives of being.

    The invite by Gordon Brown of Margaret Thatcher to tea at Number 10 was very telling.

    PM needs to be the next "scapegoat".

  • Comment number 62.

    Grand (36)

    So you dont figure that MP's of all parties arent already turning parliament into a millionaires club, by using public funds? Geoff Hoon building up a portfolio of properties worth 1.7M?

    I fail to see what second jobs have to do with anything, so far as the shadow cabinet are concerned. There is no rule in place to say they cant. So long as it does not comprimise their parliamentary commitments to their constituents. As you are no doubt aware, political veteran that you are, you only have to give up second jobs, directorships etc, when you are part of the GOVERNING party, which Cam's lot havent been for 12 years.

    And we havent yet got onto the Lords where you can still have connections to other jobs and industrial sectors. You may be familiar with the name of Lewis Moonie. If not you should be, especially when you consider how much money EDS make out of government IT services.

    And, what has Cameron being a millionaire already got to do with anything? Er, hello mate... Shaun Woodward, Geoffrey Robinson... neither of them are skint. Both are multimillionaires. Who gives a stuff how much money someone has got so long as they have the integrity and the honesty to do the job?

    Sorry mate. I know you enjoy this agent provocateur stuff, but its that old green eyed monster that keeps on shining through doesnt it? Just cant shake off the fact that life aint fair and equal... and sometimes, just sometimes, those who were born into money or status just need to be brought down a peg or six, dont they?

  • Comment number 63.

    The question is will he be rewarded for failure?

  • Comment number 64.

    The departure of Martin is no solution through a sacrificial lamb.

    He was the fig leaf behind which some MP's were hiding. We now have clear line of sight on all of them and there is nowhere to hide.

    Westminster is said to be the "Mother Of Parliaments".

    That maybe true BUT she is now a clapped out old lady sat in a corner soiling her self.

    She has now become a foul smelling shell of her former self and needs to be renewed.

    This can only be done by purging the MP's who are guilty of fraud and deception.

    This needs to be done by an election with enough time for each electorate to scrutinise their MP.

    No more sending things into long grass , call the election and lets get through this pain ASAP.

    Then we can sort out the financial disaster and all of the other Labour train wrecks

  • Comment number 65.


    You hit the nail on the head when you said that he failed to lead. I am not bothered whether people think he's a scapegoat or whether people have something against him or if people have come out in support of him.

    It comes down to the fact that with his words, behaviour and attitude he failed at a time when he could have used his position to take parliament in a better direction but instead he criticised those that wanted change and used his powers to target those that wanted to share information with the public.

    He's not the speaker of the House, he's the guard dog who seems to be more concerned with protecting corrupt MPs with no regard for the public.

    I agree that he should be the first of a list of people.

    But when do the public get to put a vote of no confidence in parliament and democracy on the agenda????

    Instead, we have people that when the public scream in anger they pretend they can't hear you and stay on to the bitter end. I once thought that the reason people go in to politics and become MPs is to serve the people and this continuing saga demonstrates time and again that even when they prove to be not serving the public they continue to fight to maintain their positions.

    The most shocking element is that all of this probably does more to encourage extremist actions against this country and the government. Now let's create a new show "I'm an MP, Get me out of here" where we can send all the MPs to a horrible place chosen by public vote where they can endure all sorts of challenges chosen by public vote and each week there can be technical glitches with a phone vote of deciding which MP gets to escape forcing them all to remain there another week to endure the same.

  • Comment number 66.

    Disappointing it was such hard work for him to go. Important he goes immediately and does not try and "sort things out" (something he has already demonstrated it cannot achieve).

    He should step down from being an MP and should not go to the Lords. He has failed (he would not be going otherwise) and thus should not be rewarded (assuming Brown meant what he said when he said it).

    His departure is not a solution but will hopefully help others find a solution. His robust defence of the status-quo would have bee a massive hindrance to any solution.

  • Comment number 67.

    "Its_an_Outrage wrote:
    In describing Mr. Martin as a scapecoat, I was not suggesting that he was innocent. He was guilty of at least trying to cover-up something which needed to be revealed. But he was punished in the hope that others, far more guilty would escape punishment."

    He isn't just guilty of trying to cover-up the expenses he is also spent time at the trough himself (and he has let his wife and children have their turn as well).

    We are not talking about a man who has refused to use his expenses (and there are MPs out there who haven't claimed for second houses!).

  • Comment number 68.

    Personally, I'm fed up with all the bile and vitriol that is being aimed at Michael Martin. And as for all the people commenting on blogs like this one ... well, it's amazing how many "hard working taxpayers" find plenty of time to spout their drivel on the internet in the middle of the working day.

    Everybody knew exactly what the system was like; there is no new information of substance in the latest furore. Yes, the system needs changing - it always has - but there is no need for everyone to get so NASTY about it!

  • Comment number 69.

    Meanwhile Gordon Brown is quoted to have said "No Labour MP who broke expenses rules would stand at the next election"

    Mr Myopic missing the point yet again. What we want to hear is "No MP who abused the expenses system for personal gain would stand at the next election"

    Tony Bliar is keeping a very low profile eh? Nothing to do with raising the deposit for his London home by re-mortgaging his constituency (second ) home then claiming the mortgage payments for it on expenses?

  • Comment number 70.

    In a sense, the very fact that the Speaker felt that he had to resign this morning shows that the system does, deep down, work. People have been sick to death of a Parliament - and, let's face it, a Government - that is increasingly out of touch and only concerned about its own survival.

    Something has happened to lance a boil, and the House of Commons needs new leadership so that it can go back to doing what it does best - represent the British people and hold their elected Ministers to account. Only a new Speaker can do that. However, this is not the end but only the beginning of a reform process which will have to be even more root-and-branch than the Reform Act 1832. The new Speaker has to be an experienced parliamentarian who can enjoy the support of all parts of the House; one of the current Speaker's biggest faults is that he came across as being in cahoots with the Government and the Labour benches. Not good. He also has to be of unimpeachable integrity. I know that many will say that there are not many in the Commons who have such integrity, but there are many good Members who are and who have begun to find their voice. I hope that some other MPs will follow Douglas Hogg's example and say that they too will stand down.

    We hear a lot about the sovereignty of Parliament, but that is only shorthand for the sovereignty of the British people. Today we have begun to wrench that sovereignty back for ourselves. MPs have started to realise that we are their employers - they owe us their living, and not the other way around.

    This is a sad day for British democracy, but possibly the beginnings of a new age.

  • Comment number 71.

    Martin leaving is just the start of this process. Once Westminster has completed an audit of MPs expenses there should be a general election forwith. Only by submitting themselves to the voters can politics move forward.

  • Comment number 72.

    I agree with all your summary.

    All of our Government and Oppositions must act to restore public confidence.

    I have no confidence in the Prime Minister. He seems to be more interested in the world stage rather than sorting out our countries problems.

  • Comment number 73.

    When asked about The Speaker Gordon Brown changed the subject and said that all Labour Ministers and MPs found to have broken expenses rules would face deselection from The Parliamentary Labour Party. What on earth does this mean? Hasn't this whole thing been about MPs supposedly staying within rules that were blatantly too generous. It was the rules that were wrong from the outset. They were merely exploited to the max to line their pockets. How can it now be proved that they broke inefficient rules? Hello. The horses have already bolted!

  • Comment number 74.


    "As i understand it many MPs who the public feel are guilty of wrong doing
    are not actually in breach of the rules of the house. So it seems a rather empty statement."

    I'm not sure if Brown was talking about Commons rules or Labour Party rules, it's possible that he meant similar rules to that which Cameron has put in place within his own party, full disclosure and publication etc.

  • Comment number 75.

    He failed to lead ... this also applies to Gordon Brown. When will we hear about his departure?

  • Comment number 76.

    This is getting, may be has got, to the point where the Government cannot rule. I notice the Her Majesty is said to have expressed concern. I doubt she'd risk letting that get out unless things were getting quite hairy.

    I for one am feeling quite intensely about this, and i suspect plenty of others are too. This just isn't going away no matter how much scapegoating or apologism goes on. Yes, Martinhad to go - apart from anything helse he's been a rubbish Speaker all along, and not unmired in the past. Really, though, the clear picture is that Parliament as a whoel, and the majority party in particular, are nothing more than thieves, and that they are united only in their determination not to be budged by the opinion of mere voters. The thing is, this nation has always be slow to anger but woe betide those who do so, and I fear that's what has been achieved. Lumping this on top of all the other insults, incompetence and the connivance with big business that has got us into an awful recession is pure TNT. Will they reall wait until blood is running. Mind you, now they've got their new paramilitary police, as road tested at G20, perhaps that's why they feel so cocky?

  • Comment number 77.

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

  • Comment number 78.

    "grandantidote wrote:

    Maybe later in the year there should be an election but with every MP who has made a unreasonable claim not even to be allowed to stand."

    That would certainly be an interesting election as nobody would recognise the Labour front bench as a result, for a start Brown wouldn't be able to stand (seems unreasonable to claim for a second home when you have the rights to live in a grace and favour flat!)

    I am not going to even go into the Tory and Lib Dem front bench as I doubt most people could identify them at the moment!

  • Comment number 79.

    "Others will insist that this Glaswegian sheet metal worker was the victim of class-based prejudice and snobbery."

    Really Nick

    I havent seen anyone saying this at all, Have you truly? or is this just another of your own biases coming out?

  • Comment number 80.

    "Earlier on today, a woman rang the BBC and said she had heard that there was a hurricane on the way. Well if you are watching, don't worry there isn't".

    - Michael Fish October 1987

    "Neverthless, what's been revealed so far looks unlilkely to force anyone from office and compared with allegations of fraud that politicians have faced in many other countries this would be regarded as small beer".

    - Nick Robinson April 2009


    Nick, what you have written above could have been written from the first day Michael Martin's unconventional appointment was forced through by New Labour's landslide majority.

    Why has it taken you so long to remove those (red) rose-tinted spectacles and seen what most of us have seen for years.

  • Comment number 81.

    "Others will insist that this Glaswegian sheet metal worker was the victim of class-based prejudice and snobbery.
    There is some truth in both those charges."

    eh? so he was kicked out because he's not a toff? is that seriously your analysis, nick?

    That is the most disgusting piece of "journalism" that I've seen from the BBC for a very long time.

    Do you at the BBC seriously think you're going to get away with spinning a "tory toff" campaign to get your beloved labour back into power again in 2010?

  • Comment number 82.

    By resigning, Michael Martin has made the best of a bad situation. He will most probably get the peerage, the pension and the payoff that he doesn't deserve, thanks to Gordon Brown.

    Had he not gone however, pressure would have been put on an already highly stressed government to dissolve parliament. So for now at least, by resigning, he has bought time for the current status quo, but I'm not so sure the public will be happy with that.

    Whats really needed is a general election so we can separate the wheat from the chaff, to do some hiring and firing. This isn't the end of the expenses scandal by any stretch of the imagination.

    I'm sure over the next few weeks scalps will be offered up in sacrifice in order to keep Gordon Brown in power. I doubt he will be as easy to remove, so we'll have an early summer of buck passing and a reshuffle. The bad news is those Labour MPs that are cast aside will be carrying long knives and will need to protect their own interests at the next election. What better way for a Labour MP to promote themself and hold onto their seat than by taking the scalp of the man people hold most responsible for the political and financial mess we're currently in?

    Labour will bomb at the EU elections, which makes Gordo a prime target for someone proffessing to help save the Labour party from annihllation at the next general election.

  • Comment number 83.

    in reply to 68.

    i don't understand this argument i keep hearing about how its not such a big deal, you seem to be arguing that a little bit of corruption in office is ok.

    and as, like myself, you seem to have been waiting for this scandal to break for a number of years you will be aware of the efforts, led by mr martin, to try to supress this information, even to the point that there is specualtion that, had the telegraph not published, its likely that information about MPs flipping their homes would have been suppressed under 'security concerns'.

    We have a government that seems to feel it has the right to monitor everthing we do, but when the microscope was turned back on parliament then certain mps they did everything in their power to prevent the public learning how their taxes are being spent.

    Orwell similes are overused these days, but in on this issue there are many MPs, the speaker included, who behaved like the pigs in the final lines of 'animal farm'.

  • Comment number 84.

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

  • Comment number 85.

    I believe that if he has wrong so he not be the only one forced to quit what about all these other mp's with false claims think its about time the government had clean out and save this country before it is to late.

  • Comment number 86.

    While Michael Martin is taking a beating I would like to adjust some quotes from your article, Nick, and apply them to our Prime Minister:

    "At a time when the Commons desperately needed leadership, he failed to lead." At a time when the country needed leadership Gordon Brown failed to lead.

    "He failed to see this crisis coming." He also missed the banking crisis which has now fallen under the radar thanks to the expenses debacle.

    "He presided over the system which encouraged MPs to fiddle their expenses or to claim them to the max." And claimed six grand for a cleaner that he shared with his brother.

    "He wasted time and money on fighting calls from taxpayers." Guilty as charged - in fact he still maintains he has a mandate to continue even though he was never voted in as PM.

    "He did little to stand up to those MPs who resisted reform." In fact he did so many u-turns they have renamed him The Magic Roundabout.

  • Comment number 87.

    As there has to be an election in the next year why not have some-one from the lords sitting as speaker until then,Lord taylor of blackburn and lord truscott will have some free time to do the job.

  • Comment number 88.

    One down...

    If there is even the remote chance of anyone connected to Labour reading this comment, please be aware that Michael Martin is "small beer" compared to the neolithic incompetence of Gordon Brown and his usless, sycophantic government of zero talents.

    Most member so the labour government should be stanidng trial for either fraud or treason, there are no bounds for the depth of my contempt for these people. They have turned our country and parliament into a cess pit

  • Comment number 89.

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

  • Comment number 90.

    He didn't even really need to 'lead' - he could have got away with just copying.

    The Scottish Parliament dealt with the members' expenses thing some while ago. They did away with the second home allowance and all their members' expenses can be looked up on the internet at the Scottish Parliament web-site.

    I mean, this really could have all been avoided.

  • Comment number 91.


    Spot on.

    Unfortunately Gordon Brown is equally inept and he also holds one of the highest offices in the land.

  • Comment number 92.

    Nice guy. Poor political judgement. Should have retired after Damian Green.

    I agree with Cameron that we need a general election now - even though I won't be voting for him. Only way to draw a line under this.

    The obvious way forward is to extend the powers of the Audit Commission to cover Parliament and other national expenditure .

  • Comment number 93.

    23 MPs signed the call for him to go.

    I pray that those 23 all prove:
    a. Not to have been guilty of expenses abuse themselves; and
    b. Were not with the majority of MPs that attmpted to keep the expenses details secret.

    The angry reaction against those attempting to hide the snouts in the trough has been bad, and to those caught with their snouts in the trough worse, but the level that would be aimed at those who add hypocrisy to to their misdemeanour would be aweful indeed.

  • Comment number 94.

    He acted like the shop steward...
    because that is his job.
    Clearly he only understood the very short term rather than the longer term interest of his comrades.

  • Comment number 95.

    #11 Who told you he was resigning with inmmediatly then?

    Any opportunity to be cynical..typical of many on these blogs.

    Dearie me!!!

  • Comment number 96.


    Can you ask Gordon Brown at your next get-together to discuss the daily briefing if he will be rewarding the failure of this disgraced Speaker with a knighthood?

    To honour the future Lord Mick of the Gorbals with a gong will surely reinforce the club culture that most people in this country are getting all steamed up about and want to be rid of.

    As for being a scapegoat, I hope this is not the case and I am sure those who argue this in the blogs will be proved wrong.

    Gorbals Mick should be the start; now it's time to get on and purge the rest of the MPs who have been caught out.

    Where are the police? Where is HMRC?

    When is Gordon Brown going to call an immediate GE so that constituents can question the actions of their local represenatitive and either give them the benefit of the doubt, a clean bill of health or their P45?

  • Comment number 97.

    Just a thought how about G.Brown for speaker?

    After all he a good listner, and a very effective leader and never just reacts to todays bad news but always has plans for a mew committe or report in the offing. And best of all he has already saved the world so saving the house of commons should be childs play to such a super hero!

    And on a persional side it will give him something to do when he loses the next gereral lection.

  • Comment number 98.

    Martin was not a victim of anything other that his own complete failure to do the right thing.

    His persistent attempts to keep expenses secret were out of kilter with public opinion.

    He simply forgot who he works for.

  • Comment number 99.

    "78. At 1:24pm on 19 May 2009, Mark_WE wrote:
    "grandantidote wrote:

    Maybe later in the year there should be an election but with every MP who has made a unreasonable claim not even to be allowed to stand."

    didnt G.Brown claim he had saved the world.... does that mean he cant stand... if so we need to get the new rule on the statute books NOW!

  • Comment number 100.

    There has been from MPs a lot of 'if we don't have expenses then poor people will be stopped from being MPs' ............ how about using the one of their favourite solutions on themselves. MEANS TESTING. If the MP is already rich they get no expenses at all. If 'poor' then they get the maximum. That way, in theory at least, no-one would be stopped from becoming an MP on the grounds of cost.


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