Leading article: The lack of moral courage

Share
Related Topics

If Michael Martin, the Speaker of the House of Commons, were the kind of person to take responsibility on behalf of the whole House, he would have resigned yesterday. Unfortunately he, like most MPs, failed to rise to the occasion, instead making a statement of morally lethargic buck-passing. Members should consider "the spirit of what is right" in claiming expenses from their constituents' purses, he said. Meetings would be held and new procedures would come into force "shortly".

He also launched a sarcastic and foolish attack on two MPs, Norman Baker and Kate Hoey, who dared raise criticisms of the manner in which the Commons authorities have dealt with the issue of expenses.

Of course, it makes no sense to demand that the Speaker be made the scapegoat for a failing for which MPs collectively are to blame. MPs are accountable to their voters for expenses for which they have claimed, and no doubt, in many cases, the voters will exercise that accountability at the ballot box.

But the collective failing demands leadership from those that represent the Commons, including the Speaker, the Prime Minister and the leaders of the other parties. David Cameron, the Conservative leader, has shown willing. He dealt promptly with the issue of Tory MPs employing members of their families; he offered his support for a cross-party reform; and on Sunday night he pre-empted publication of the Shadow Cabinet's expenses by saying that the system was "wrong" and "we are sorry about that". Nick Clegg has also been able to take a reasonably elevated moral tone, although his Liberal Democrats' expenses have yet to see the light of day.

But Gordon Brown has played defensive politics with the issue throughout, allowing his zealous knights to try to obstruct publication for years, and then trying to gain a party advantage by announcing a unilateral reform on YouTube last month, which unravelled within hours.

If the Speaker had shown some moral courage yesterday it would have been refreshing. But such qualities, in both his office and in the chamber over which he presides, seem worryingly lacking at the moment.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A sculpture illustrating the WW1 Christmas Truce football match in Liverpool  

It's been 100 years since the Christmas Truce, but football is still changing the world

Jim Murphy and Dan Jarvis
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there