Blogging over on Centre Right, my colleague Matthew Sinclair discusses the emasculation of the House of Commons, as shown in the current furarce (somewhere between a furore and a farce) over the Speaker. There is a serious issue here for MPs that some of them still don't seem to appreciate.
A lot of MPs feel they are hard done by in public opinion at the moment - that they only claim reasonable expenses whilst working extremely long hours, but the view down the pub is wrongly that they are lazy and on the make. The vast majority of MPs are probably right to feel at least a touch of frustration about this, but the only way to solve it is to win back the public's trust with more openness.
As they say, a good reputation takes years to build and a second to lose.
The best way for MPs to win back trust and their reputation is for them to become vocal campaigners for reform. That means publishing their own information, as I've discussed here before, but also speaking up against the Speaker and the way he is damaging Parliament.
Spending large amounts of public money to try to keep information about where our money is spent secret is a disgrace and is hugely damaging to public faith in Parliament. Worse, the Speaker and the Commons Commission claim to speak for all MPs in doing their best to keep Westminster free of public scrutiny. No wonder MPs feel harshly judged - the Speaker is claiming to have their mandate for his unethical, antidemocratic and arrogant campaign.
If he does not have their backing, they should say so. The excellent MP for Harwich and Clacton Douglas Carswell said so yesterday - more should now follow. I reccomend you read Carswell's article in full, by the way, as it accurately diagnoses a large portion of the deeper malaise that afflicts our system of Government.
There are no valid arguments against other MPs speaking up. Let's run through those that are put forward:
It is simply not done.
Rubbish. If it is right to do, it is right to do - MPs are meant to pursue the best for their constituents and the nation, not kowtow to imaginary convention.
The Speaker will never call me to speak or ask a question ever again.
Do MPs really believe Michael Martin to be so vindictive and short-sighted that he would abuse the procedures of the Commons to satisfy a grudge? If this is true, then it is simply more evidence that he should not continue. I suspect that even if he wanted to, the Speaker would be well aware that a quick visit to www.theyworkforyou.com would be sufficient to show that the regularity of a Member being called was tailing off after their comments about him.
The Speaker is an independent and authoritative figure who should be respected.
With great power comes great responsibility. Michael Martin should only be afforded the respect due to a Speaker who is providing good service to the Commons as long as he is actually doing a good job. Suffering in silence while he degrades the public's view of national politics will benefit no-one.
Now that Douglas Carswell has opened the door, others will surely follow - being the first and only one is the most difficult position, but now he has stuck his neck out it is safer for others to join him.