in Politics

Does the Speaker’s resignation really matter?

As someone who could be called a political blogger I should have an opinion on it.  Fact is, I don’t.  Not much of one, anyway.  But as a political blogger it is my right, if not my duty, to drag my tendentious non-opinions out for a few hundred words.

And my opinion is that it just doesn’t really matter.  Can you tell me how your life will change because he has gone?  Is it going to make any tangible difference that we are now counting down the days until he vacates the Speaker’s chair?  I don’t think it is.

A lot of MPs have been caught out on their expenses.  That fact hasn’t changed.

The Commons’ expenses system needs to be reformed.  That fact hasn’t changed.

The Speaker never made anyone clean their moat, or claim for payments on an already paid-off mortgage.  That fact hasn’t changed.

So while we can all talk about how this is a first step in restoring confidence in Parliament, or about the mistakes the Speaker did make, there are far wider issues here.  However you see the Speaker’s constitutional role it doesn’t include absolving individual Members for their misdeeds.  Yes, he might ultimately be responsible for the expenses system, but that doesn’t make him responsible for the claims.  I thought we had managed to move on from the ‘my claim was within the rules’ argument, but the Speaker falling on his sword just seems to reinforce that view.

The Speaker is but one man, the problems here are far bigger.  What we have seen – as we see so often in all walks of life – is the school-yard blame culture.  Something bad has happened, and someone must be to blame, and if we all point the finger in one direction, we might just get away with it.

While this might be the start of rebuilding public trust in Parliament, I’m not sure it’s the start of rebuilding my trust in Parliament, because instead of accepting a collective responsibility for all that has happened there seems to have been a collective decision to find a scapegoat.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Martin has been atrocious as Speaker.  From the day  he was appointed (when Labour failed to observe the convention of rotating the Speaker between parties) he has shown he really wasn’t up to the job and should have resigned three or four times over.  But to really move on Parliamentarians need to show some self-awareness, and you don’t do that by scalping the Speaker.

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