Parliament and the Government are in total disarray. In the States, Newt Gingrich is calling for Nancy Pelosi to resign for lying to Congress, but that’s small potatos compared to what’s happening over here in the People’s Republic of Britain. Members of the House of Commons are calling on Speaker Michael Martin to resign. This just doesn’t happen here. Not since 1695.
The Commons Speaker, unlike the Speaker in the US House of Representatives and in the various US state legislatures, is not supposed to be affected by political party affiliation or loyalty. When they are elected by the members, they resign their party membership and when they run for re-election to represent their constituency, they are on the ballot as Speaker. They then serve as Speaker until they retire.
Over the past few years, there have been informal suggestions by some backbenchers (members of the Commons who are neither Government ministers or the spokespeople from opposing parties) that the Speaker should step down because he has been incompetent and feathering his own nest. However, this is the first time that a motion of no confidence in the Speaker has been put before the House or that a party leader has openly spoken against the Speaker.
It all stems from the huge fiasco over how members expenses have been paid. It turns out that many members across all parties have been claiming expenses for some pretty outrageous things. Two members of the Labour Party have been expelled from the party and one Government minister has stepped down during the investigation. Criminal charges may be in the offing for members who have been completely fraudulent, for example claiming expenses for mortgages that didn’t exist.
For mortages, rents, renovations, repairs, and every other conceivable domestic expense, MPs have repeatedly engaged in “flipping”. This means they will claim a particular residence is their second residence, claim loads of expenses, then flip the designation to a different home, claim loads of expenses, and continue doing this.
Married cabinet ministers Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper made a claim for almost four times the amount of mortgage interest to which they were entitled. They flipped the designation of their second home to three different properties within the space of two years. They also charged the taxpayer £600 per month to feed themselves. This is on top of their combined salary of nearly £285,000.
But back to Mr Speaker. As reported today in the Daily Telegraph:
Parliamentary authorities, overseen by Michael Martin, the Speaker, gave secret permission for some MPs to over-claim for thousands of pounds in home loan interest in deals that led to the systematic abuse of the taxpayer-funded expenses system.
He let his people collude with MPs to cheat the taxpayer. He also tried to stop the publication of information about expenses. He tried to call the police on the Daily Telegraph when they started exposing all of this. He has got to go.
But so do so many other MPs. Many have hastily repaid some of their more outrageous claims but some caught with their hand in the cookie jar just don’t care. For example:
Ben Chapman, a Labour MP, admitted last night that he was allowed to continue claiming for interest payments on his entire mortgage after repaying £295,000 of the loan in 2002.
Over 10 months the arrangement allowed Mr Chapman to receive £15,000 for the part of the home loan which had been paid off. Last night, he said he would not give back the money.
It has gotten so bad that even the Queen, who never gets involved in political matters, has had strong words with the Prime Minister. She is conscious that her people are suffering the effects of a recession, while her Parliament are stuffing their pockets with every available taxpayer pound.
More and more people and media outlets are calling for a swift general election. What we need is time for the smoke to clear and for constituency organisations of all parties to have time to de-select offending incumbents (thus preventing them from standing for re-election as anything other than an independent) so the election can be fought on the failure of the Labour Party and not on the behaviour of individual members.