U.K. House speaker in battle to save job

Stephen Beard May 18, 2009
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U.K. House speaker in battle to save job

Stephen Beard May 18, 2009
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Kai Ryssdal: Over in Britain today, a financial scandal is threatening to turn into a national crisis. Members of parliament, it seems, have been playing fast and loose with their expense reports. And the speaker of the House of Commons, a position usually above the fray, is fighting for his job. From London, Stephen Beard reports.


STEPHEN BEARD: With his black ceremonial knickerbockers and buckled shoes, the speaker is the embodiment of British tradition. The holder of a revered 632-year-old office. All the more amazing then that in the House today, members from all parties turned on him.

MEMBER: Your early retirement sir would help the reputation of the House.

MEMBER: When will members be able to choose a new Speaker with the moral authority to clean up Westminster and the legitimacy to lift this house out of the mire…

Parliament’s been in turmoil following newspaper revelations about members’ parliamentary expenses. One well-heeled MP claimed the cost of cleaning his moat. Another claimed for horse manure. Others have received tens of thousands of dollars for mortgages that did not exist. The Speaker’s own expenses were relatively modest. But Nick Clegg — leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats — said the speaker presided over this mess. He has to go.

NICK CLEGG: He’s been far too willing to drag his feet on issues like transparency, freedom of information and what MPs do with taxpayers’ money.

If the Speaker does hang up knickerbockers now, he would lose a payoff worth $150,000. But he should at least be grateful he holds this post in the 21st century. Seven of his predecessors were beheaded.

In the Mother of all Parliaments, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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