George Foulkes: Michael was a reformer cut down by jittery MPs

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When I spoke to Michael Martin yesterday morning, he was remarkably calm and content. He thought that now he had taken the decision to step down, it was a weight off his shoulders. What many people are now forgetting is that Michael did a lot to change the role of Speaker while he held the position.

He opened up Speaker's House, his official residence, making the role much more accessible. One of his great achievements was his work with young people from poor backgrounds, showing them what can be achieved. He came from very humble beginnings, and always wanted to show others in a similar position to him that there is no limit to their ambition.

The idea that he stood in the way of reform is totally false. Some MPs are now trying to project their own shortcomings on to him. On 3 July last year, there was a package of reforms put forward by his committee designed to modernise the expenses system. But while half of all MPs did not turn out to vote on the measures, only half of those present voted in favour of them.

Many MPs have simply started panicking because of the leak of expenses details, which has led to the targeting of Michael. But if it had been up to him, we would be well on the way to reform by now. Some of those who wanted to remove the Speaker were praising him yesterday. That is total hypocrisy and they should hang their heads in shame.

Michael is looking forward to the future, spending more time with his grandchildren. He knows he has achieved a lot in office. Though the manner of his departure was regrettable, he remains very proud of his 10 years as Speaker.

Some people are trying to persuade him to stay on as an MP once he steps down. I hope he does.

The Commons now needs to look for a new speaker. I'm not an MP any more, so I do not have a say. But I think the Conservative MP John Bercow would garner much support across the house.

Interview by Michael Savage

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