Speaker out


Traditionally when a Speaker of the Commons is elected, he or she is supposed to feign reluctance because of the past perils of the job. This is symbolized by having the Speaker dragged to the chair by MPs. This is the first time one has been dragged from his chair. All of the reasons given are no doubt true: Mr Martin had lost authority; he miscalled the whole expenses row; he underestimated the public outrage. It is also true that he was seen from the outset as a weak candidate, lacking the gravitas which the post calls for. He was also seen falling short of the objectivity the job requires.

Something else might well be true. It is quite possible that MPs are looking for an event to draw a line under the whole row about expenses, hoping that in the public mind it will now be regarded as over and done with. The fall of the Speaker, they might hope, will settle the matter. They could well be wrong about that, themselves underestimating how badly let down the public feels. Those who abused the system the most may yet find that selection committees and constituency voters refuse to be fobbed off by seeing a fall guy go down, and insist on punishing the real culprits. We could be in for a most interesting election.