One of the great achievements of this Labour Government, from a control freak point of view, is how it has succeeded in ensconcing many sympathisers in positions of power, culminating in an exercise of political nepotism never seen before. One jewel in their armour was the election of Michael Martin as Speaker back in October 2000. Although the former political affiliations of speakers have never been a barrier to their election, concerns were raised as to how impartial ‘Gorbals Mick’ would prove to be.
In terms of the rights of MPs to put the governing party on the spot, it transpires Martin is in no position to see his former boss humiliated by a baying opposition. One of the weakest flanks exposed in the turmoil that is today’s Labour Party is the question of who Tony Blair would like to replace him as the standard-bearer of progenous socialism. However, on Martin’s watch, the Conservatives have been blocked from posing questions on the issue by an apparent ruling prohibiting non-parliamentary business. Tell me, Mick, since when have questions to a Prime Minister been exclusively about the business of Parliament? An important feature of PMQs is the ability of the combatants to outflank their opponent, not for the Speaker to shield the Prime Ministerial incumbent from difficult situations just because he happens to share the same ideological tribe as himself.