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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

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David Miliband lets the Speaker swing

Posted by John Rentoul
  • Sunday, 17 May 2009 at 09:49 pm
The politics of the Speaker's position is something that I do not pretend to understand fully. Benedict Brogan says that "the future of the Speaker is up to Gordon Brown". In The Independent on Sunday I made a more mundane arithmetical point, that if David Cameron decided to go for Michael Martin's jugular there were probably enough Labour MPs now to ensure a majority against him. The difficulty is that Cameron has said privately that he does not think it would be constitutionally proper for him to call for the Speaker to go or to indicate to Conservative MPs that they should try to oust him.

Tom Harris, meanwhile, doubts that there will even be a vote on the matter this week. He can't see how Douglas Carswell, the Conservative backbencher, could secure one. But I thought Nick Clegg for the Liberal Democrats was intending to table a motion, which would presumably have to be taken.

In which case, I thought the Foreign Secretary's refusal to say that he had confidence in the Speaker, on the BBC1 Politics Show today, was more significant than the BBC itself is reporting. It says: "David Miliband has said it is up to MPs to make up their own minds about the issue and the Government could not be seen to be 'bullying' Parliament." But read the full transcript of the exchange with Jon Sopel and make up your own minds:

DAVID MILIBAND: Well, I think last Monday, although I wasn’t there, I was in the United States, doing government business with Mrs Clinton, on Monday I don’t think he got it right but I think that what I would say about the future of the Speaker is that I have my own views. It’s very important that at no stage does it look like the government is trying to tell parliament how it should behave or what it should be about the Speaker; this is an issue for every single MP. If it comes to it, I’ll make my views known during the course of the week or whenever it comes to pass, but I think at this stage, it’s important that every MP comes to their own view.

JON SOPEL: With such a premium on honesty and candour at the moment, why don’t you just share what your views are?

DAVID MILIBAND: Well, for the reason I explained, I do have my views. I will express them when the time comes, but I think that the suggestion at this stage, that the government was bullying one way or the other, the future of the Speaker would be terrible for politics.

JON SOPEL: Okay. Do you have full confidence in the Speaker?

DAVID MILIBAND: Well, I will make my views very, very clear when, if and when the time comes.

JON SOPEL: Do you have full confidence in the Speaker?

DAVID MILIBAND: I – at this stage I don’t want to get in to headlines, one way or the other - because it’s not for the government, for a senior government minister, to start suggesting that there is a government line on the future of the Speaker: there isn’t. I’ve got my own view, it’s my own view which I’ve come to of my own accord and if and when the time comes, this week or beyond, I’ll make it known.


But Miliband
leonard_merryl wrote:
Monday, 18 May 2009 at 07:02 am (UTC)
has squandered 30,000 pounds of taxpayer's money on his second home, in a constituency he never visits because he passes all his free time in Israel & America with his wife.

He has also vowed he won't pay-back a single penny of this money.


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