Michael Martin today took his seat in the House of Lords as Lord Martin of Springburn. We’ve all heard the story of Sir John Trevor, who was the last speaker to be unseated, in 1695, who was deposed by Parliament for taking a bribe of 1000 guineas, which in today’s money would be in excess of £1.5 million.
Lord Martin joins the cross benches in the Lords, which includes senior law lords, former generals as well as many former diplomats and now non-aligned politicians.
His joining the cross benches is one of those parliamentary conventions that I just do not understand. Michael Martin joined the Labour Party when he was 21, was a shop steward for the AEEU at 25, was a councillor in Glasgow at the age of 28 and was elected to Parliament for over 20 years, as a Labour MP, before taking on the role of Speaker.
It seems odd that in his semi-retirement, in the Lords, that Michael Martin cannot take the Labour whip, and has to sit with crossbenchers who have a wide range of political views, and none, from people like the former Liberal MP, David Alton to royal photographer the Earl of Snowdon. One of the main problems that has blighted Parliament has been its yearning to retain its traditions and conventions.
This is one that just seems old fashioned and illogical. Lord Martin should sit with his Labour colleagues, and friends, and break this meaningless convention.