Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The scapegoating of Michael Martin

John Kampfner in Comment is Pants:
"Class is the last refuge of the political scoundrel. Amid all the column inches about Michael Martin is the ubiquitous reference to the "former sheet metal worker". His upbringing in the Gorbals in Glasgow and his difficult early life appear to have induced in his supporters and critics alike a sense of otherworldliness. Normal rules have, until this week when he finally bowed to pressure to quit the post of Speaker, not applied."
'Gorbals Mick' came from Anderston, not the Gorbals, and he isn't called Mick. At least Quentin Letts when he gave Michael this sneering nickname was probably aware of these facts, unlike John Kampfner. Just because you're a chippy trades unionist from Glasgow doesn't mean they're not out to get you. Michael Martin was an undistinguished Speaker and his attack on Kate Hoey was quite extraordinary - but what exactly are these 'normal rules' Mr Kampfner is referring to? The last Speaker to be forced out of the job was John Trevor in 1695 and this was for taking a bribe. There is no suggestion of anything matching this level of personal corruption with regards to Michael Martin.

I would agree that Michael Martin was essentially incompetent but to imagine this was enough to see him ejected from his role as Speaker is pure fantasy. Had it not been for the Telegraph's revelations about MP's expenses, he would have remained in his role. Despite having little respect for the manner in which he has conducted his office, I'm left feeling both saddened and with a sense of injustice at his abdication on this day. MPs, disgraced in the public eye, not only say, "it was the rules wot made me do it", but they add to their irresponsibility by saying, in effect, that the Speaker's failings allowed this to happen. As if this kind of use and abuse of the expenses system didn't pre-date Michael Martin's tenure as Speaker of the House of Commons. As if they were not responsible for their own behaviour. This generation of MPs is unfortunate in that they got found out. "It wasnae me", they cry - but the thing is, I reckon Michael Martin's claim to the excuse that every generation of Glaswegian schoolchildren reproduce is as least as good as theirs.

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