FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Britain’s Speaker Crisis

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Politics is practiced by a group Orson Welles liked calling the third sex.  And that third variant of gender is not very popular in Britain at the moment.  The expenses crisis threatens to submerge Parliament, as if it did not already have enough problems in the public eye.

Allegations of an inappropriate use of expenses, notably the MP tax-free allowance for second homes, is now seen as the stuff not merely of the Brown government, but all parties.  The House of Commons suddenly looks like a truly criminal class, shabby and distinctly unsavoury.  The political ‘system’ is being hauled out and savaged, and the need for complete reform, pressing.

The problem is seen as even more acute, given that no true separation of powers exists between the various arms of government in Westminster.  Legal, legislative and executive functions are funneled through an all-powerful Parliament.  In other systems, as Denis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham puts it (Guardian, May 17), dubious heads of state can be confronted by a vigilant congress; corrupt ministers dispatched by judicial inquiry while legislators ‘properly paid and staffed do not depend on party leaderships for preferment.’

Blood is being sought in what is being termed a moral fit, and it looks like a suitable target, at least for many, is the Speaker of the House.  This, in itself, is hardly fair (others Speakers did nothing to reform the expenses aspect of the House), but fairness is rarely, if ever, a yardstick in assessing political behaviour.

Set for the chop, the Speaker Michael Martin is clinging on – barely.  As one who speaks not merely to all sides of Parliament, but for Parliament, there is a feeling that his time has come.  He does, afterall, chair the members estimates committee.  But the refusal by all sides of the House, through party functionaries and leaders, to even discuss the issue in a coherent, systematic way, has crippled his case.  Nor has the time taken by Sir Christopher Kelly, civil servant appointed to review the state of expenses, helped.  Far easier for the English establishment (Martin is Glaswegian), still marked by the public school net, to look for a ritual purge as the ship sinks.

Martin’s panacea, set out in his statement on May 18, is more chatter, a meeting ‘as a matter of urgency, and within 48 hours’ of the Prime Minister and party leaders, to meet with members of the the House of Commons commission.  All members of parliament bore ‘heavy responsibility for the terrible damage to the reputation of the house.  We must do everything we possibly can to regain the trust and confidence of the people.’

Martin is certainly right about starting a conversation that members refuse to have.  But he has been dimissed roundly, to use Bruce Anderson’s words in The Independent (May 18) as a ‘painful mediocrity who stumbles from truculence to self-pity’.

Such events could not have happened at a worse time.  While minor parties stand to benefit from the rot, beware what sort of parties they might be.  Nature abhors a vacuum, and often fills it with an assortment of nasties.  Members of the BNP will be thrilled to bits and will no doubt be hoping that Kelly takes as long as he likes with his review.

BINOY KAMPMARK was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He can be reached at: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 28, 2017
Diana Johnstone
Macron’s Mission: Save the European Union From Itself
Jordon Kraemer
The Cultural Anxiety of the White Middle Class
Vijay Prashad
Modi and Trump: When the Titans of Hate Politics Meet
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Efforts to Hide Palestinians From View No Longer Fools Young American Jews
Ron Jacobs
Gonna’ Have to Face It, You’re Addicted to War
Jim Lobe – Giulia McDonnell Nieto Del Rio
Is Trump Blundering Into the Next Middle East War?
Radical Washtenaw
David Ware, Killed By Police: a Vindication
John W. Whitehead
The Age of No Privacy: the Surveillance State Shifts into High Gear
Robert Mejia, Kay Beckermann and Curtis Sullivan
The Racial Politics of the Left’s Political Nostalgia
Tom H. Hastings
Courting Each Other
Winslow Myers
“A Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind”
Leonard Peltier
The Struggle is Never for Nothing
Jonathan Latham
Illegal GE Bacteria Detected in an Animal Feed Supplement
Deborah James
State of Play in the WTO: Toward the 11th Ministerial in Argentina
Andrew Stewart
Health Care for All: Why I Occupied Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s Office
Binoy Kampmark
The European Commission, Google and Anti-Competition
Jesse Jackson
A Savage Health Care Bill
Jimmy Centeno
Cats and Meows in L.A.
June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail