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

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: A royal serving the nation

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko prior to the start of the European Council Summit in Brussels last month  

David Cameron talks big but is waving a small stick at the Russian bear

Kim Sengupta
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn