Michael Martin

I was sitting in the chamber yesterday awaiting the arrival of Speaker Martin – and thinking of history. I was remembering other ‘rotten’ Parliaments that I had yawned at in my school history lessons – bored and not understanding the import of history – that it was once reality. Ironic – really. And then Speaker Martin rose to make his statement.

Whilst I had called for him to go last Sunday – as I sat there in the chamber I wondered – could he, would he? Was there a rabbit out of hat? As his first words left his mouth – I knew that nothing had changed. Speaker Martin just hadn’t got it. He did apologise to the nation. He said we all had to bear our responsibility. And then he said he would call an urgent meeting with all the leaders. He just seemed not to understand the raging torrent of public opinion out there. Calling a meeting just wasn’t going to do it!

Not enough. Not nearly enough. You cannot defend the indefensible – and yet he believed he should.

The world has moved on – and MPs are not a special breed who can hide behind some special arrangements that make them in some way exempt from the scrutiny and openness that we prescribe for others. The Americans have got this together so much better than us.

Anyway – Speaker Martin failed to command the respect of the House – as MP after MP defied him and challenged his authority. One MP shouted from behind the bar (from which you cannot speak). Centuries of convention and respect dissipated as Mr Speaker lost control.

He was not helped by his own mistakes in understanding the standing orders of the House and had clearly not been briefed properly by his Clerks – as he said that the motion of no confidence (tabled by Douglas Carswell and on which I was one of the initial signatories) was not a substantive motion. But it is. He said it was an EDM. Shouts from the House – anger and derision mixed.

But with today’s news that he’s going to stand down – that’s all history now. The job now is to get a Speaker who can help us all start fixing the system.