The new Speaker of the House of Commons will play a pivot role in restoring the reputation of the institution. (Westminster Hall has survived for many centuries — its very roof is medieval.) The election of a new keeper of order is intended to help heal rifts caused by members’ expense abuses.
The holder of this office is an MP who has been elected to be Speaker by other Members of Parliament. Nominations for Speaker must attract the support of at least 12 MPs (at least three not from the candidate’s party). The first candidate to muster at least half the 646 votes carries it. The Speaker keeps order and calls MPs to speak during Commons debates and must be politically impartial. Michael Martin, a former sheet-metal worker from Glasgow, will be the last to have been in charge of the Commons allowances system. The government plans to hand that over to a independent body. The Speaker, as the Commons’ chief officer and highest authority, also represents the lower house of parliament to the monarch, the unelected House of Lords and other authorities. Mr Martin has also been allowed to stand down as an MP, although, in keeping with Commons tradition, will be given an alternative official appointment — elsewhere.