Parliament is full of many conventions that appear strange to those outside it. Often it seems as though these conventions are held in higher regard than the need to get things done.
One of the most astounding features of the current expenses debacle has been the reaction of the Speaker, Michael Martin. He seems far more concerned about the breach in Commons security that a leak was made, despite it being in the public interest, than that public confidence in the political system is fast evaporating.
This is not a party matter, it is a parliamentary matter. And to resolve it needs strong leadership and good judgement that commands respect and confidence. The present Speaker of the House of Commons has demonstrated that he lacks the respect, confidence and judgement needed to undertake it.
For too long Speaker Martin has been protected by a convention that MPs do not publicly criticise the Speaker. But like other parliamentary conventions this one cannot be allowed to stand in the way of essential reform of the system.
Douglas Carswell MP has become the first MP to stand up in public and say the Speaker must go, tabling a Motion of no confidence in the Speaker. Already other MPs are coming out and agreeing.
And let's also nail the whinging that criticism of the Speaker is because of his working-class origins, or his being Scottish, or his being a Catholic. Frankly these complaints are pathetic attempts to evade criticism for real lapses in performance and judgement. There is too much playing of the "minority card" and pretending that every criticism of a person is based on prejudice. Such attempts shame and devalue real debate and merely reinforce prejudice.