On Thursday 16 August 1660 Samuel Pepys wrote
“This morning my Lord (all things being ready) carried me by coach to Mr. Crew’s, (in the way talking how good he did hope my place would be to me, and in general speaking that it was not the salary of any place that did make a man rich, but the opportunity of getting money while he is in the place.)”
Samuel Pepys was being congratulated on getting a new job. I think it was in Naval procurement, and although the pay was not fantastic, there was ample scope for enrichment by way of back-handers and greasing of palms. According to his diary he took every chance he could to enhance his fortune.
It is quite depressing to think that even although we are 449 years beyond his times, we don’t seem to have been able to improve matters. There will always be people who are disgustingly greedy and they really just can’t help it. Unfortunately, the rest of us are guilty of being too trusting. I reckon that most of us have always known that there are plenty of MPs who are in it for what they can get out of it. However we liked to think that it was at the expense of companies who wanted to have them as directors and such like. I certainly didn’t think that anybody would be so blatant about it, as some of them have been.
I know that MPs say that being at Westminster is like being in a wonderful club, so it wont be long before they see themselves as being something above the rest of us. Instead of what they actually are, which is employees of the electorate. So, I can understand that it must be easy to get out of touch with the real world.
But plenty of them do manage to keep their integrity. If I were them, I would be apoplectic with rage at the performance of Speaker Michael Martin today. He lumped them all together proclaiming them all guilty as if that would make matters better. The tactics from day 1 have been to deflect any allegations away from the perpetrators by quickly apologising for a ‘mistake’ and then to quickly say that the really bad guys must be hunted down. I watched Tony McNulty in disbelief when he came out with such a response.
Watching Newsnight Scotland tonight, I discovered that if Michael Martin did resign as Speaker, he would have to forego a £100,000 golden handshake. Well, he isn’t likely to do that but surely if the man had any brains at all he would have announced that he was going to stand down before the next election.
His speech today was a disgrace. It was obvious that he hadn’t even written it as surely he wouldn’t have stumbled over the words so badly if they were his. I don’t think he had even looked at them prior to the speech.
I know that there have always been plenty of people opposed to him being the Speaker and others have always ridden to his defense. They claim that MPs of a certain type couldn’t stand it that he had the job. Well, I think that Michael Martin has had a very easy time of it because of those allegations of snobbery against anyone who dared to complain about him.
He has been an appalling Speaker and an absolute embarrassment. I was born in a tenement in the east end of Glasgow and over the years I’ve often been mortified by his behaviour. I hate to think that he might be seen as – one of our best – because honestly he couldn’t be much worse.