The Speaker of the British Parliament’s House of Commons, Michael Martin, earlier today announced his resignation on 21 June after facing severe criticism for his handling of the scandal over MPs’ expenses. It has been revealed that MPs have grossly misused the system by having private expenses reimbursed from public funds.
Michael Martin, who has been in office for nine years, is the first Commons Speaker to be forced from the position since 1695. His resignation comes after several MPs from both sides yesterday called for it during a stormy sitting of the House of Commons, where the Speaker said all MPs bore a “heavy responsibility for the terrible damage” done to the House but did not mention his own future. Several MPs had called for a vote of no confidence in the Speaker and earlier today Prime Minister Gordon Brown also withdrew his support.
Before announcing his resignation this afternoon Michael Martin was heavily criticised in today’s newspapers. Simon Hoggart wrote on The Guardian’s front page about the Speaker’s performance yesterday: “It wasn’t even tragic, if tragedy is the story of a great man brought down by his own weakness. Michael Martin is a weak man about to be destroyed by his own weakness. […] He didn’t even mention the possibility of resignation. Instead, he intends to hold a top-level meeting. A meeting! If this man were tackling the Great Fire of London he would announce a commission on fire prevention measures, to report by the autumn. He just doesn’t get it”.
David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative party, yesterday publicly called for a general election to be held. His demand seems a reasonable one, given that this scandal has brought much discredit upon the British Parliament, to such an extent that a fresh start may be necessary to restore people’s confidence in their elected representatives.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown must call a general election before the summer of 2010, but it seems unlikely that he will do so now as his party is currently doing very badly in opinion polls. One such poll in today’s Guardian gives Labour support from 28 % while the Tories are at 39, the Liberal Democrats at 20 and “others” at 14.
The British newspapers have more on the Speaker’s resignation: