It must have been one of the shortest statements ever. Basically, Speaker Martin said for the sake of the unity of the house he would step down on 21 June – allowing for a new speaker to be voted for on 22 June. And that was that.
I though just as he got it wrong yesterday – he got it right today. I just wish he hadn’t had the humiliation of yesterday. But politics is like that – sudden and often quite brutish in its endings.
Speaker Martin’s announcement today is just the start of a process that will hopefully sweep away the cobwebs and dust of a system that has been sustaining a broken politics – and will let light into all the old, dark secret ways.
We all now have a duty to give our ideas and energy for reform to the Kelly commission, who will independently set the new rules for all expenses and the like. He needs to get a shifty on – as the sooner we can cleanse our body politic the better. There are massive problems out there for so many people that this inward focus must end as soon as possible.
And whilst the Speaker has now done the honourable thing – and I am glad that he can now go with dignity – that still leaves the many MPs on a spectrum of guilt from potentially criminal (that means they must face the law of the land), through excessive greed (deselection) to smaller transgressions (the ballot box ). All those must be dealt with appropriately – and the punishment must fit the crime. For the rest – being sainted in the Telegraph is their earthly reward. (Fair play to the Telegraph too – as they are now publishing each day a list of ‘saints’. See their coverage of myself here.)
As to who will be the new speaker – I don’t know. I do know that the new system of secret ballots means that hopefully the dreadful pressure of the whips and the totally partisan approach will not hold sway. We need someone who can deliver a modernising agenda. That is the crucial point and I don’t care which party they come from – only that they can deliver and take us forward out of this unholy mess.
Frank Dobson and I had a real set to as we were waiting to go on the BBC’s Daily Politics show. He is against the secret ballot and was trying to argue that we shouldn’t have anything secret. I think he doesn’t get it. Expenses – open and transparent so the world can see and be reassured about our behaviour. Voting, just as in general elections, in a secret ballot to make sure we don’t suffer undue influence.
Methinks Frank doesn’t get it. He still clearly wants to stack the odds, use the whips, ensure a Labour Speaker – rather than fair play. Luckily we had to go on set before we got to fisticuffs!