James Forsyth

If Cameron won’t, Clegg should tell the Speaker to go

If Cameron won’t, Clegg should tell the Speaker to go
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The issue of who is the Speaker of the House of Commons should not be a party political issue. But there is no way the Commons can begin to put its house in order and begin the urgent task of restoring the public’s trust in it as long as Michael Martin remains in office. He has fought transparency at every turn. Indeed, even now—as Heather Brooke reported the other day—he is still trying to block the release of information. His attitude also exemplifies what is wrong about the way too many MPs have treated the expenses system; Martin allegedly told another MP that “I have been a trade unionist all my life. I did not come into politics not to take what is owed to me.”

Word is that David Cameron feels he cannot call for Martin to go openly because of the constitutional implications of doing so. He has walked up to the line, saying at his press conference earlier this week that it is convention that he doesn’t criticise the Speaker so he wouldn’t say anything at all about the Speaker. But this is no time to put parliamentary convention ahead of the public interest; doing so is partly what has got our system of government into this sorry state.

If Cameron won’t, Nick Clegg should go to the floor of the House and call for the Speaker to go. Yes, he would probably get chucked out of the Chamber. But it would show that he understands the public’s rage and the need for reform now. Also, the sight of Clegg being removed for speaking truth to power would boost his reputation and his name recognition. As Lloyd Evans wrote last year, the defining issue that Clegg needs is parliamentary reform. That issue is now there for the taking if he has the courage to do so.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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