Early Day Motion? Substantive Motion?
Oh, for God’s sake! Does the Speaker not realise that the people do not care about the minutiae of a myriad of motions or piddling parliamentary procedures? A motion was proposed by Douglas Carswell, and it was clearly the express will of Parliament that it be debated. But because it was not ‘substantive’, it could not be. Well, Mr Speaker, the motion was substantive in the eyes of the Deputy Leader of the House, Chris Bryant; it was substantive in the eyes of Parliament and in the eyes of the people. It had substance, basis, existence: it was substantive in every sense except within the trivial confines of your muddled mind. But you had to bend forward to confirm the status of the motion with the Clerk. And he had to repeat it twice as you appeared either to be hard of hearing or (more likely) slow of apprehending. And each and every awkward question which was put to you was embarrassingly referred to your advisers. You were ill-prepared and ill-advised.
Mr Speaker, how can you know so little after nine years in the Chair?
Michael Martin read his prepared speech like an inarticulate pupil stammers his way through a paragraph of The Catcher in the Rye; and was just as ignorant of its social importance, as unaware of the meaning, and as oblivious to the eternal significance of the opus. He bumbled and blundered in a fashion quite unbecoming of his office. He was barracked and heckled from the floor, and responded like a petty tyrant. He looked inadequate, sounded weak, and gave the impression of being way out of his depth. Despite calls for his resignation from all sides of the House, he just did not get the message.
As Mr Speaker has refused to address the issues and appears oblivious of the need to restore the standing of Parliament (what little there remains of it), it is now down to the party leaders who meet with him today to tell him it is time to go. And David Cameron should tell him candidly, irrespective of constitutional niceties, that it is all over. Speaker Martin is not the only sinner in the disgraceful episode of dodgy expenses, but he is manifestly the principal obstruction to reform.
Yet Cranmer would like to remind his readers and communicants that, as incompetent and inadequate as Speaker Martin is, he should not become the sacrificial lamb to cleanse the other reprobates from their heinous sins. The offering is, in any case, not without blemish or flawless, and cannot therefore appease the electoral gods. He may have been responsible for the system, but it predated his speakership and has been immorally and wilfully abused by the likes of Elliot Morley, Andrew Mackay, Julie Kirkbride, Fraser Kemp, David Chaytor, and sundry others. If Speaker Martin is to go, as he must, then so should all of those who defrauded the public purse for their own personal gain.
The party leaders must reject the Speaker’s insistence that we must wait for the Kelly report in the autumn: it is inconceivable that Parliament should be paralysed in this purgatory for a further six months while a report is compiled which will do nothing but confirm that which is already known. Leadership is not merely about the exercising of authority; it is also about the assertion of morality. The the Mother of Parliaments has been reduced to a debauched whorehouse of filchers and frauds is a cause of deep shame, but it is not remotely credible that those who have perpetuated and profited from the system are the right people to reform it.
David Cameron should listen to the people and set aside parliamentary convention. Reformers have to confront the establishment and challenge the status quo, even at the risk of accusations of heresy and on pain of excommunication. He must understand that the Speaker is supposed to symbolise parliamentary unification; his role is to facilitate consensus. But he is now the embodiment of the disconnection that exists between Parliament and the people. This is not a party political issue. Mr Cameron must consider granting formal Opposition support for Douglas Carswell’s motion. If the Government will not place this on the Order Papers, it is for Her Majesty’s Opposition to dedicate its next allotted day to a debate on the issue.
And if the Early Day Motion never becomes a Substantive Motion, then Andrew Motion must pen an ode to the Brownian motion by which Parliament was reduced to a bowel motion.