Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A New Speaker

After the fiasco of yesterday's scenes in the House of Commons, it now seems more likely than not that Mr. Speaker Martin will announce his departure from office this afternoon after he has met with the leaders of the political parties at Westminster.

Clearly there will need to be some scrutiny of the terms of his departure. It is imperative that Mr. Martin steps down without delay. Were he to attempt to continue in office until the general election, then this would now clearly be unacceptable. There is the possibility of his stepping down and remaining in the House, or the alternative, to step down and retire from the House of Commons at the same time. Although I imagine the SNP would prefer a by-election (notwithstanding the rather murky dealings of their own leader in the expenses scandal), in fact there is nothing to force Mr Martin to leave the House, and that is a question for him alone.

The next question is what to do next.

Clearly both Nick Clegg and David Cameron have had a good crisis. Clegg partly because the scale of the allegations against Lib Dem MPs were tiny fractions of the claims of other parties, but also because he had the political courage to led the move to eject the Speaker. Cameron has handled those in his own party who claimed with egregious greed deftly, and his interview on Radio5 with Nicky Campbell was clearly a success. Nevertheless, he too will have to make some house cleaning- and while the Lib Dems have seen their support stable or rising during the crisis, the Conservatives have taken a big hit.

The issue of who should be the next Speaker is a tricky one. Convention says that it clearly should be a Conservative who takes the chair, and yet Sir Alan Haselhurst, the Deputy Speaker is himself caught up in the crisis, and does not strike one has have the vision to lead. The next candidate, Sir Patrick Cormack, has clearly taken a lead in this matter, but his problems with his local party in Staffordshire and the fact that he is in person something of a pompous ass speaks rather against him. the new Speaker will need to be the public head of a new movement for Parliamentary change, and Sir Patrick does not look much like that.

In fact the public are looking for a figure who is better known than either of these two Conservative "knights of the shires". They are also looking for a man who is regarded with integrity, and that figure is clearly Frank Field. This would be particularly true if the next Speaker is to be given a mandate for reform of the House procedures from top to bottom.

As Mr. Speaker Martin contemplates the ruin of his career, a clearly independent figure like Mr. Field is now required in order to recover some semblance of respect for Parliament in the country at large. It would not be in accordance with the Parliamentary convention, but after such a tumultuous month, the sidelining of convention is the least of the problems of Parliament.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Charles Kennedy for speaker!