Will Martin survive the expenses row?

Will Martin survive the expenses row?


    How long can he go on after his spokesman’s resignation?

The big political news in the UK this morning is about the future of the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, following the resignation yesterday of the £2000 a day consultant whose job it is to deal with the media on his behalf.

The Mail on Sunday splashes its investigation and reports that the advisor, and former Whitehall mandarin Mike Granatt, had quit “after admitting that the Speaker’s office had not told the truth about £4,000 worth of taxpayer-funded taxi rides Mr Martin’s wife Mary took to go shopping.”

He is quoted as saying: “I have found it no longer possible to work as the media adviser to the House of Commons Commission, and I have informed Mr Speaker that I am stepping down immediately..It is core to the ethical code by which I and my company operate that I tell the truth, and that I am given the truth to tell..However, I learned on Friday that I had been led to mislead journalists over material facts in a story concerning the Speaker’s household and the use of taxis..I have expressed my regrets to the [Mail on Sunday] journalist who brought this to my attention, and I offer them to anyone else who was similarly misled. I want to make it clear this arose through no fault of the Speaker.”

That last point might provide some help to Martin – who has been in the job since 2000. Also the role of Speaker is totally above the fray and he cannot be sacked. So the question is whether he can ride out the media storrm.

The essence of this morning’s story is that the paper established that he and his wife have been “using a secret limousine service to ferry them around in London and their home town, Glasgow – also at taxpayers’ expense..The Martins use £50,000 S-class Mercedes and Jaguar cars.”

This follows the row over him claiming a second-homes allowance on his constituency house in Glasgow – even though he has no mortgage on it and he is provided with what is described as a “lavish grace-and-favour apartment in the Commons”.

There is, of course, a political dimension with many opposition MPs claiming that he favours Labour members in debates. But he has his defenders. The Labour MP and regular PB contributor, Nick Palmer, posted this last night:”..there’s a lot to be said for MM’s charm – “The Honourable Member is usually very calm, it’s a shame he is getting so excited” rather than “Sit down!”

Will he survive? I would not bet on it but you don’t get to progress in Glasgow Labour politics without being tough.

There is no betting market yet – but I’m sure one will emerge in the next day or so.

Mike Smithson

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