Peter Hoskin

The knives are out for Martin

The knives are out for Martin
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Pity poor Michael Martin.  Or, rather, don't.  The Speaker's coming under increased attack today, and rightly so.  As the Daily Mail reports this morning, there are now several plots to oust him from the role: we've got Douglas Carswell's commons motion; a move to have him knifed by "a delegation from the Privy Counsel"; a plan by Labour backbenchers to circulate a letter calling for him to go; as well as ministers encouraging Gordon Brown to give Martin the push he needs.   And all this done in an atmosphere of greater public criticism of him by MPs and other political notables, including Betty Boothroyd.  I can't see Martin surviving the onslaught.  Especially as he has now achieved an exulted level of toxicity: both a liability in his role and a political liabilty to anyone around him.

It's important, though, that Martin isn't made the fall-guy di tutti fall-guys.  Sure, the very idea that the expense claims made during the past four years should be reexamined by an external auditor is a huge indictment of how he presided over the system.  Sure, he stepped way, way over the line with his lunatic attacks on Kate Hoey and Norman Baker this week.  And, sure, he's lined his pockets with a vigour and rapacity that competes with the worst of the troughers.  But it has still taken a special immorality on the part of certain MPs to exploit the system in the way they have.  A fish may rot from the head, but this fish's body still stinks too.