UK Politics

Brown Washes Hands

Prime Minister Gordon Brown – in a bold, courageous and decisive move demonstrating the quality of his leadership – has washed his hands of speaker Michael Martin and, according to the Associated Press left his fate up to MPs.

Gordon Brown declared that Speaker Michael Martin’s fate was in the hands of MPs, as they waited for him to put his case in the Commons.

The Prime Minister called for “root and branch reform” of the expenses system, but when invited to back Mr Martin said simply: “The decision on who is Speaker is a matter for the House of Commons.”

Mr Brown has previously praised Mr Martin as doing a good job, but that formula has now been dropped both by the premier and his spokesman.

Mr Martin also faced the prospect of a motion of no confidence in him being tabled at Westminster and Mr Brown’s spokesman said: “The Prime Minister and the Government will support the will of the House.”

A groups MPs from across party lines has called for Speaker Martin’s resignation.

Of course he should go. Martin was himself one of the first casualties of the sleazy expenses scandal – more than a year ago! Readers will remember the revelations that Mrs Martin swanned around London in a black cab on shopping trips, costing the tax-payer over £4,000, plus managed to run up, according to The Times, £50,000 in air travel. No wonder, as The Telegraph tells us, Mr Martin spent four years (and another £100,000 of tax payer’s money) to try to stop information about MP’s expenses becoming public knowledge.

Of course, Mr Martin – as it turns out – was no more or less guilty than many other members of the House. But this means that he is unable to wield the moral authority needed to clean up the town.

It also makes one wonder whether there wasn’t a wink-and-a-nudge acceptance of somewhat um, creative expense claims. Think of it this way. The MPs making the claims didn’t write the cheques. Someone, in some office, working to some directive, was tasked with authorising these payments. Who was it?

Could it have been that in the current economic climate, the public would have taken a rather dim view of MPs voting for a pay-rise? Was this a pay-rise by stealth? Someone must have said “yes” to Labour massage chairs, Tory elephant lamps and LibDem chocolate hobnobs.

Tory MP Douglas Carswell is right when he says there is something rotten about Westminster. Is he also right when he says change can only begin with a new Speaker?