Commons Speaker: Man of Humour Values Tradition

By Hart, Jessica | The Birmingham Post (England), October 24, 2000 | Go to article overview

Commons Speaker: Man of Humour Values Tradition


Hart, Jessica, The Birmingham Post (England)


Glasgow MP Michael Martin stressed a continued reliance on the tried and tested procedures of Parliament as he was voted in as the new Speaker of the House of Commons, beating the main Tory candidate Sir George Young.

Mr Martin, who had been favourite since early in the contest, is seen as a traditionalist with a firm mastery of the Commons.

He told the House: 'Change for the sake of change is no way to conduct our affairs but by the same token to oppose change for the sake of decision is also equally wrong.'

In his speech, he also referred to his upbringing in the poverty of post-war Glasgow but said it should not affect the result.

'My origin should be no reason for me being elected. Nor should my origin be a reason to debar me,' he told MPs.

Labour's Peter Snape (W Bromwich East) nominated Mr Martin, the deputy speaker, to take the chair and highlighted his 'even temper, calmness and gentle humour'

Before taking his Glasgow Springburn seat in 1979, Labour MP Mr Martin was a councillor on the Glasgow Corporation and helped form a housing association.

Mr Snape said it was Mr Martin, a former apprenticed sheet metal worker, who instigated proper child care facilities be provided in the Commons.

Mr Snape said Mr Martin had not been without criticism from the Press, who one reporter claimed had, by his actions as chairman of the Commons administration committee, banned unaccompanied journalists from the Commons Terrace and 'prevented journalists from buying MPs a drink'.

'Actually Mr Martin, by his actions, prevented journalists from buying each other a drink and I've no doubt, inadvertently, also prevented them from putting the wrong name on their expense accounts when they got back to the office,' Mr Snape quipped.

Referring to some late sittings in the Commons, Mr Snape argued that while debate in the House should not be stifled, a Speaker was needed to 'confront some of our more absurd practices and change those practices'. …

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