UK politics Speaker’s position

The expenses scandal continues. Now the Speaker of the House of Commons, Mr Michael Martin, is in a very difficult position. He has failed to understand the anger and disillusionment of the British electorate, and his conduct as the Speaker of the House has been under scrutiny. The situation is becoming graver every minute. There will be a motion of no confidence tabled on Monday. Mr Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the third largest party in the UK Parliament, has called for his resignation.

Anecdotal evidence, readers’ comments left on news sites and blogs, suggests that fury of the British tax-payers remains unabated. Much of the blame is pinned on Mr Martin, who has given the impression that he resided over a corrupt system, and was unwilling to change the system open to abuse. He seems someone out of touch, and someone unfit to lead the clean-up operation of the political system.

There is an alternative narrative: the Speaker is made scapegoat, a sacrificial lamb, to satisfy the vengeful nation and let off the corrupt politicians. While this view may have some kernal of truth, it should not detract from deficiencies of the Speaker. MPs who have abused, either in letter or spirit of the rules, and indeed moral probity all of us would expect from claiming expenses, must be confronted. If found wanting, he or she should be de-selected by the party. In the final instance, the voters will have a choice. MPs should not be let off just because the Speaker goes. It reamins the case however, when the Speaker loses the respect of a large number of MPs, his authority, and therefore the Parliament’s ability to function, vanishes.

Mr Martin, according to press reports, has lost the confidence of many MPs as the Speaker and his position looks untenable. The Speaker may feel that he has been treated unfairly and badly, however, if the Parliament and parliamentary democracy were to regain their reputation and trust, the House of Commons must have a new and clear leadership. The Parliament and democracy are larger than an individual parliamentarian, and Mr Martin must reflect in conscience what is best for them, rather than what is best for him.