Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Demob-happy Speaker

There are two types of leaving speeches: one says "thank you, it's been marvellous, goodbye" and the other hints to varying degrees of bitterness at the real reason for leaving.

Michael Martin blended both types in his valedictory address to the Commons - all 24 minutes of it.

There was plenty of self-justification as he reminded MPs what he had brought to the job, before blaming them for the scandal that brought his downfall.

The Speaker may have been forced out because of his perceived slowness to respond to the issue but he criticised the response of MPs to proposals last year that would have banned them from using public money to buy household goods for their second homes and introduced tighter checks on spending.

"The response from this House was deeply disappointing. Half of the members did not attend to vote, and more than half of those who did vote rejected the proposals. I regretted that then. I deeply regret that now.

"And I suspect that many members of this House share my regret. Of course, the recommendations would not have solved every difficulty, but they would have ended many practices for which members have been attacked in recent weeks."

Having blamed the leaders of the three main parties here for failing to show leadership, it was then time for those three leaders to pay tribute to the first Speaker ousted for more than 300 years.

Nick Clegg faced the trickiest task, having been the only party leader to call on Mr Martin to resign. He confined himself to warm words about the Speaker's human qualities rather than his competence in the job.

After almost two hours basking in the tributes, Mr Martin said it reminded him of a farewell dinner for a long-serving councillor in Glasgow.

"So many good things were said he stood up and said I didn't realise how much you liked me and I think I'll stay on - but I can tell you your Speaker's demob-happy."

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