Speaker Martin: scapegoat or villain?

May 19, 2009

Michael Martin, Speaker of the House of Commons, is under pressure like never before and news reports say he might even announce his departure on Tuesday afternoon.

The chief officer and highest authority of the House has become a lightning rod for the strong current of anger swirling around Westminster as the row over MPs’ expenses rumbles on.

Never a Fleet Street favourite, Martin has suffered a particularly bad press this month. Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail described Martin’s behaviour, after a statement on expenses last week, as a “puce-cheeked, finger-wagging, dooon’t-you-cross-me-Jimmy tantrum, improper from any chairman of a parish meeting, let along the Speaker of a Commons in crisis”.

Simon Hoggart in the Guardian wrote after Martin’s Commons statement on Monday: “it was gruesome, horrible, pathetic and miserable. The Speaker resembled a boxer totally outfought, tottering numbly around the ring, barely aware of what was happening, staggering into his opponent’s fists, somehow upright, but swaying. He is a dead man reeling. In any humane venue, the referee would have stopped the fight. But he is the referee! And he’s not stopping anything!”

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg says Martin should go, otherwise he will die a death by a thousand cuts. 

But his supporters in the Labour Party say the Speaker is being made a scapegoat for the excesses of MPs on all sies of the House.

 What do you think? Is he being unfairly hounded out?   


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Speaker Martin has never been up to the job,that’s been evident for a long time, his ineffectiveness has compounded the problem of this corrupt parliament, but we cannot allow MPs to hide behind him. The corruption must be cleared out “root and branch” and if we are to achieve clean politics, local politics must be next on the list.

Posted by Sheila | Report as abusive

Martin is being FAIRLY hounded out.

Not because he’s The Speaker or because he’s got to take the rap for the culture of greed in Parliament.

He’s got to go because he’s a Labour dinosaur and represents everything that is rotten in the Labour Left. There can be no new beginning in politics or recovery from the recession until he and the whole discredited ideology of Socialism are swept away.

Posted by Peter | Report as abusive

Yes, of course Michael Martin should go now. If he does not resign then he should be pushed out.
But the crisis is so bad now that public confidence in the MP’s is at an alltime low and that alone will not be enough. There must also a general election called and a reselection process put in place of all MP’s so those with their noses in the trough can be kicked out by their constituents and new candidates selected in their place.

Posted by Roy Huxley | Report as abusive

I feel he is being used as a Scapegoat. He is culpable but then so are the MPs who have been abusing expenses and I don’t hear any MPs demanding that they resign immediately. If MPs try to sidestep their individual and collective guilt as they have done with the banking crisis (and allowed bankers off the hook, again with taxpayers picking up the tab), Britain may well get its first revolution.

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

What is frighteneing is that he thought there was any possiblility he could stay. To cleanse the floor a new brush is needed that is not tainted by the nods and winks of the current parliamentary system. What is important about these revelations is that this is unboubtedly the tip of the iceberg in the public sector. Cutting illegitimate expenses in the state sector should not be hard – it will be interesting to see the claims made by the civil service and the multitude of quangos. Bring in the knife and lets prosecuted a few to set an example – we need a good spring clean across the state expenditure.

Posted by charlie robertson | Report as abusive

His conduct the other day, acting as he did as the bullying standard-bearer of fraudulent vested interests, was an absolute disgrace. He should count himself lucky that these days he won’t end up suffering the fate of some of his predecessors, who were probably guilty of far less serious offences.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

Not long ago the Speakers own expenses-claims were shown to be extravagant: that he stopped the updating of the rules is not surprising – had he ever the competence to
direct their examination mere months later! H of C ontology at its worst; jokes about fundamental orifices spring to mind – yet again.
Belated murmurs re a ‘national government’ are being heard. Blair’s leavings have been so totally out of their depth, and emergencies are cropping-up so often that this country needs a steadiness that New Labour can’t supply. We deserve better than what we’ve got,
from Speaker Martin ‘down’ (if that’s possible).

Posted by D.Thomas | Report as abusive

What bothers me more than whether or not he is a scapegoat is that, if he does resign as a result of a motion with 23 signatures, with no vote being taken, then that suggests that those 23 people, who have in interviews been freely using words like “democracy” and “accountabilty”, understand by those two words something quite different from what the rest of us do.

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

The fact that this is unprecedented and occurred so quickly surprises me. Taking the poison pill was the right thing to do.

Posted by Attract Prosperity | Report as abusive

Step 1) He’s a disgrace and MPs are the only people who can get rid of him.
Step 2) General election for the public to consider innocence or otherwise of their MPs

Posted by GP | Report as abusive

Ref the comment regarding “democracy” used in regard to Martin’s resignation. He is not resigning as a result of a motion with 23 signatures. He is resigning because he knows that his position is untenable and if the motion were debated in Parliament he would lose the resulting vote of no confidence and would be forced to step down. By resigning he is pre-empting the democratic process and is going with some hope of salvaging a few shreds of his reputation instead of suffering the ignominy of dismissal.

Posted by Andrew | Report as abusive

His greed and his ill-fated attempt to conceal it by trying to make himself and all other M.P.s exempt from the I.o.I. Act means he cannot be trusted, nor will he or many other M.P.s ever be again. The only M.P.s to be trusted are those like Glenda Jackson, Susan Kramer,Ed Davey and others who have shown no interest in milking the system for all they can!!!

Posted by Tony B | Report as abusive

I would say that Martin is a villain rather than a scapegoat and has received his fully justified come-uppance.

Can we hope that he is only the first of many to go? Perhaps Brown will do the honourable thing and ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament in advance of a early election.

There can be no hope of a new beginning until we have a new Parliament and a new government. Clean hands and clean air are required.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

It is like kids caught with stolen candy blaming mummy for leaving the candy jar open. The onus was on MPs to be honest with their expenses. Blaming Mr. Martin can be best seen as scapegoating and at worst as another cynical ploy of obfuscation by MPs desperate to blame others to save their own skin. To restore confidence, the whole necrotic tree has to be uprooted i.e. MPs have to return to their constituencies and face the electorate in a general election. Anything else will be a dismal fudge.

Posted by Lloney Monono | Report as abusive

Martin is a victim, a scapegoat and a contributor to the mess we are in.A scapegoat for the dishonest Mp’s, A victim of the way he has run his office , and a major contributor to trying to hide the truth from the electorate. Along with Martin all the proven dishonest Mp’s should go, and never be able to be reselected ever again. An early election, but not before we know all the crooks, should take place.

Posted by Mike Perry | Report as abusive

It seemingly appears correct for Martin to go but he should be at the head of a long long line of disgraced M.P’s. who have been found to be without any morals immediately followed by the Fraud Squad! These disgraced M.P’s. to be banned from ever holding any political post again; i.e., in jail.

Posted by Clive Rogers | Report as abusive

He should go, but the noise and criticism aimed at Martin from MP’s is done with one thing in mind – deflecting the blame from themselves.

They hope that the sound of a head rolling down the corridors of Westminster will mollify the public but it shouldn’t. It should signal the start of a brutal, mass deselection.

Posted by James | Report as abusive

Good riddance. The beginning of the end of the Scottish Mafia. One of the most shameful episodes in British politics.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

Why did Tony Blair have his expenses history destroyed before he left office and how was he permitted to do so?…by permission of Michael Martin????

Posted by Tony B | Report as abusive

Have just heard of the tributes to ex-Speaker Martin from the ridiculous Harriet Harman….if she or any of the other shower in the Commons really think he carried out his duties “with distinction “, what was all the fuss about??? The man was a total disgrace!!!!

Posted by Tony B | Report as abusive

I would like to know who authorised all the expenses for our so called mp’s somebody MUST have passed these within the government.

Posted by A Barker | Report as abusive

Of course he should go -he was one of the first caught with HIS hand in the cookey jar! Hardly a good example to the others-therefore he’s not a scapegoat. We may have to wait for the General Election to see which MP’s are worthy to remain. How many Honourable members in the last decade have resigned!

History has shown there may be war next to distract the people from hanging their own politicians for slaughtering the economy

Posted by Guy | Report as abusive

Martin is the runt of the litter and the hounds have turned on him. He should go, but he has not brought all elected members, or the present government ministers into disrepute they have done that by their disgraceful dishonesty and greed.

It might be good to hear of those parliamentary members who have not abused the system. Has anyone interviewed Dennis Skinner?

Posted by Margaret | Report as abusive