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.

MPs are pretty normal – shock!

Hansard’s report on MPs’ use of the internet was published yesterday and sponsored by Microsoft they held an evening for an invited cognoscenti and a panel of three blogging MPs – myself, Tom Harris and Douglas Carswell.

The report basically found we (MPs) were ‘normal’ – not a description often used in preference to abusing us! But in this case, we replicate pretty closely the rest of the world in our use of the internet.

I think all three of us bloggers were pretty clear that despite the dangers we believe it is important to say what we think. We all gave slightly different takes on the “why” – for me, it’s mostly about engaging with constituents first and foremost, in Tom’s case he is more looking at a national audience and promoting the party’s line and in Douglas’s case he talked about attracting a wider audience for views and issues.

I have no doubt, myself, that my use of e-campaigning was part of the magic that overturned a 26,000 Labour lead over me in two elections to victory by 2,395!

Graham Watson (Lib Dem Euro Leader) was there too – and explained that when your electorate reaches 5,000,000 you really are not going to be able to reach them any other way than by e-means!

With blogging and twittering and use of social networks like Facebook – we are all still experimenting and pushing the envelope. Some tweet all the time and blog multiple times a day. For myself, I do it as often as I can – but am still somewhat concerned that I don’t end up feeding the monster. In truth, it doesn’t take very long to write a blog as I don’t fret or anguish over my words (as you have probably noticed!) and I love writing.

Anyway – lots of interesting people at Microsoft for the evening – ranging from the techno fraternity (and a few sorority) to those involved in other allied areas like Tweetminster – the twitter feed for MPs.

This is all in its infancy really – and we all (elected representatives) have yet to use all the tools the internet offers to communicate with our various audiences. One thing was clear though – and very clear in Hansard’s Report – that MPs still see use of the internet as mainly a means of lecturing (informing) their electorate of their opinion or view – but as yet are not so keen on engaging and hearing back what the electorate thinks of them.

Well done Hansard for this. What I think will be really interesting is for Hansard to monitor what the effect is on votes for those internet savvy politicians compared with those who just basically use email and have a website (which is the majority).