Leading article: The man who can speak no evil?

Share
Related Topics

Many outside the Westminster village will be scratching their heads at the intensity of the row which has blown up over taxi expenses claimed by the Commons Speaker, Michael Martin, and his wife, Mary. Mrs Martin, the first Speaker's wife not to be allocated an official car, says that over four years she has spent about £20 a week on cabs, fetching food for official receptions. Mr Martin's official spokesman has quit over the affair. But if there is an irregularity here, it seems pretty minor.

Equally bewildering is the argument of those who defend Mr Martin on the grounds that the attacks are all a witch-hunt based on class snootiness and the broad Scottish accent of the man some Tory backbenchers refer to as "Gorbals Mick". If such attitudes exist, they were not deployed with the same ferocity against previous Speakers such as Betty Boothroyd, Bernard Weatherill or George Thomas – all from fairly humble origins.

Behind the scenes there are rumblings that Mr Martin has not been as incisive or non-partisan in the Speaker's chair as many MPs would have expected. There have also been reports about difficult relationships with key staff. But, again, it is all comparatively petty stuff which it would be possible to wave aside were it not for one thing. The Speaker is the man who is to preside over a root-and-branch reform of MPs' expenses and allowances, in the wake of the Derek Conway affair and various other incidents of parliamentaryvenality.

Mr Martin has certainly broken no rules in using air-miles clocked up on public business to subsidise a private family trip. Nor has he breached regulations in claiming £17,000 a year in allowances on a house on which he has already paid off the mortgage. But what all this does suggest is that Mr Martin is not the best person to preside over this review. The lax rules that govern MPs' expenses need to be tightened up and the elaborate allowances system simplified and policed a good deal more efficiently. But can Mr Martin be a credible wielder of the banner of reform? At a time when public trust in politicians is at a nadir, it would be a good idea for Mr Martin to step aside from this role.

Whether he should step aside as Speaker is a different matter. It would do Parliament no good for its most senior layman to be hounded from office. It would be far better if Mr Martin were to announce in a couple of months that, having served two terms in the job, he intends to stand down at the next election. On past precedent, he can expect a graceful transition to the House of Lords. With its ample allowances, and what is reputedly the best wine cellar in London, he should be very happy there.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Biomass Sales Consultant

£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Java Developer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client are a successful software hous...

Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

MS Dynamics NAV/Navision Developer

£45000 - £53000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS DYNAMICS N...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The legal definition of terrorism threatens to criminalise us all

Mike Harris
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game