Thoughts on Speaker Martin

It is increasingly clear that Michael Martin is one of the least impressive speakers of modern times. His abject feebleness in the Damian Green affair and then his disgraceful attempt to pin all the blame on his subordinates are only the latest manifestations of his unsuitability for the role. He should never have been chosen by an overly "tribal" Labour majority and a fat lot of good it has done them or for the reputation of the House of Commons.

There used to be a convention that the Speaker is chosen from the ranks of the opposition. So after Betty Bothroyd it should have been a Conservative or Lib Dem speaker. Both parties had outstanding candidates in the shape of Sir George Young and Sir Alan Beith. Either would have been an adornment to the speaker's chair. Instead the massed ranks of Blairite backbenchers went tribal and chose another Labour Speaker.

I am reminded of the original Conservative majority which ran St Albans District Council for its first decade or so. They hogged the mayoralty, regarding it as a Conservative sinecure. When the Liberal/SDP Alliance first became the majority party on St Albans Council, we were determined not to play this game. We did not insist on a Liberal/SDP mayor. Instead we elected London Colney Labour councillor Fred Perham as mayor with independent Basil Filmer as his deputy. Fred had been serving as a councillor for thirty years on St Albans District Council and its predecessors (and as a strange coincidence he had been brought up as a boy in the Pageant Road house which we later occupied as a family).

It was a disgrace that Fred had never been mayor before, because of Conservative narrow-minded party politics. He proved to be an adornment to the office. And after this we instituted the current points system where the mayoralty is offered to local parties in proportion to their representation on the council. It is fair and transparent. So as the LibDems won overall control of St Albans Council this last May, a Conservative Mayor was simultaneously chosen. Parliament could learn from St Albans!

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