Tories plan to vote out new Speaker after election

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Michael Martin, the new Speaker of the House of Commons, could be forced out of the post after the next election under plans being drawn up by MPs to modernise voting practices for Parliament.

Michael Martin, the new Speaker of the House of Commons, could be forced out of the post after the next election under plans being drawn up by MPs to modernise voting practices for Parliament.

Mr Martin began his first full day in the job yesterday, but was immediately accused by Tory backbenchers of failing to fulfil his promise to hold the Government to account.

Several MPs challenged the Speaker to follow Betty Boothroyd in lamenting the failure of Cabinet ministers to attend debates in the chamber, but Mr Martin refused to comment.

Tories raised the point following the decision of John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, to send a junior minister to answer for the Government during an Opposition debate on the fuel protests scheduled for today.

More importantly, Mr Martin, who is set to give his first press conference in the post today, faces the possibility that reform of Commons rules could see a new Speaker elected after the next general election.

Several Tory MPs told The Independent yesterday that they were so incensed by Labour's "abuse" of its huge majority to elect the Glasgow Springburn MP that they were prepared to vote against his adoption.

"There's going to be trouble after the election. Most of us abstained and a few voted against because this was a nakedly partisan election for Speaker," one Tory MP said.

Normally, a Speaker is endorsed as a matter of course by a new Parliament, but a hard core of Conservatives believe that a much smaller Labour majority after the election would give them the chance to remove Mr Martin.

The new Speaker was elected on Monday only after an unprecedented call by the Tories for a division of the House and after eight MPs decided to break convention and vote against the motion that proposed him.

The seven-hour process was also marred by claims from many MPs from all parties that the election was undemocratic because it knocked out each of Mr Martin's 11 rivals in turn.

Tony Benn, MP for Chesterfield, led calls for an open ballot for the contest but his request was refused by Sir Edward Heath, the Father of the House.

Margaret Beckett, Leader of the House, appeared to back Mr Benn yesterday when she said that the selection procedure should be reconsidered.

"I think that the issue of how we elect the Speaker does have to be looked at again, that is my personal view," she told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

"The procedure committee has looked at this issue before and I think, from the atmosphere yesterday, and the discussions yesterday, I think probably very widely across the House people will think that they ought to look at it again."

Mrs Beckett admitted that she would have preferred to have seen the role of Speaker go to Tory Sir George Young because it was better for the Speakership to alternate between parties.

William Hague, the Tory leader, said on Monday night that the system "may not have been ideal" and is likely to support moves towards an open ballot.

Liberal Democrat chief whip Paul Tyler, who claimed that Mr Martin could be a "temporary Speaker", yesterday joined the calls for a review of the system used to select the post."Whatever the clarity of the eventual outcome, the majority of MPs did not think the electoral system worked fairly and properly. It is evident from media coverage that the House of Commons looked very silly," said Mr Tyler.

Several MPs congratulated Mr Martin, who decided not to wear the traditional Speaker's garb of wig, silk stockings and knee breeches, as he took his seat for the first time yesterday.

Comments