YESTERDAY the BBC left a voicemail message for me. Could I call them back to help in a piece of research being carried out by The World This Weekend?
No. And I didn’t. Word of advice to BBC researchers: when leaving a voicemail message for an MP, offer some information on what the subject matter is – no MP worth his salt will return a call just because you want to ask him “a few questions”.
Having said that, it was pretty obviously going to be a question about Michael Martin. And so it came to pass: the BBC got the story they were looking for, though with less justification than they would ideally have liked.
Of those who did take part, 32 – just short of five per cent of the total House of Commons membership – told the programme makers what they wanted to hear, namely that they had lost confidence in the Speaker. How many of that 32, I wonder, are among those (mostly Tory) MPs who have never reconciled themselves to Michael Martin’s speakership, or who have won a few headlines by adopting the cause of getting rid of him as their “thing”?
Unpopular though this may be, I agree with Matthew Parris’s view that the appointment and subsequent accountability of the Speaker is a matter for MPs and MPs alone, not the BBC’s and not even the public’s.
I hope that all the external media pressure on Michael Martin will have the effect it deserves to have: none. It’s one thing for a political party to seek to bully the police into abandoning a criminal investigation into one of its MPs; it’s quite another for the media to seek to hound the democratically-elected Speaker of the House of Commons out of his job.