The present outbreak of the disease which threatens to cull all the livestock in the House of Commons can be traced back to 1976 and Michael Foot’s cowardice in the face of a pincer movement – a deputation of MPs unable to live on the pittance that was allocated to them and a concurrent acrimonious row with the unions regarding pay policy.
As a Labour politician, Foot was sympathetic to the plight of the many junior Labour MPs who did not have the benefit of rich ancestors, but he could not get tough with the unions whilst handing out pots of gold to MPs, many of whom were ex-union officials themselves. He compromised by appearing to act tough on MPs’ salaries but to quietly increase the allowances. MPs came to regard the total package as their “remuneration” and increasingly to see their only obligation as to obey the letter of the, deliberately, very lax rules for claiming allowances.
The ‘mouth’ of the House of commons is the Speaker, a position which has been in existence since 1377 when Sir Thomas Hungerford was appointed the first speaker of the house. Loyalty to the speaker is traditionally a ‘hallowed commons tradition’ and there is no precedent of a speaker being removed against their will in modern times. However the current speaker Michael Martin is facing unprecedented calls for him to resign by MP’s from all across the party spectrum, due to his handling of the expenses scandal that originated with Michael Foot. The speaker is responsible for maintaining not only the privileges of parliament but it’s dignity also, and as the symbolic leader and highest authority in the house, there are demands, notably from Douglas Carswell MP, that the MP for Glasgow North East should take responsibility for his fellow MP’s excesses and be removed from his position.
The last time this happened was in 1694, when Sir John Trevor had to announce the motion calling for his removal on the grounds of his ’sordid rapacity’. Sir John left the house after a unanimous vote, and, pleading ‘illness’, never returned. We have been here before, obviously.
There is precedent for an interim chair. Following a General Election, a member will move to propose that ‘x’ take the Chair of this House as Speaker. Until this vote is held, the Father of the House, who is currently Alan Williams, the Labour MP for Swansea West, would be the presiding officer of the House.
I suspect that if Douglas Carswell’s Early Day motion is successful, then this is the route that will be taken. I cannot support this idea, the anger in the country is so great, that it is not sufficient to offer up a sacrificial lamb and then return to normal.
We have heard a catalogue of excuses from exposed MPs, prevalent amongst which is a variety of ‘accountancy is not my strong point’ and ‘it was a book-keeping error’.
In the midst of the greatest financial crisis this country has known, how can we possibly leave 646 people in charge of balancing the books, who cannot tell when a debt has been paid up, nor when an invoice is justified or not.
The only way to deal with rampant and diseased livestock is to cull them all – so the Government ‘experts’ tell us.
I’ll warrant there are more than a few Farmers and Huntsmen who would be prepared to take on the job – free of charge.
- Not getting it Anonymong
- May 18, 2009 at 11:56 pm