Has the News of the World made Martin more vulnerable?
Could the Speaker have to face the music?
If the News of the World report is right that the Crown Prosecution Service is concluding that the case against Green and Galley is â€œnot prosecutableâ€ then that puts a whole different complexion on the affair and today’s debate.
For the possibility that there’s not a “crime” takes away one of the main props on which the two who are most exposed – the Speaker and the Home Secretary – had been relying. For the much repeated mantra that “MPs cannot be above the law” really only applies if there has been a clear case of law-breaking.
Thus if there had been no doubt about the gravity of the offence then the handling by the Commons authorities of the police request would have been less problematical.
This is all set against the growing clamour that Michael Martin should step down – an issue that has been made more acute by the suggestion that he hopes to carry on in the role after the next general election. While many of his critics in the house would have swallowed him carrying on until the election the fact that he apparently wants to continue could prompt action now.
For Jacqui Smith it is going to be quite an uncomfortable few days. Her declaration that she didn’t know what the police were planning has drawn criticism from both Tory and Labour predecessors. The tough-talking John Reid has not helped her position.
I don’t think Brown would want to lose her but this could be a tricky week.
Alas none of the bookmakers has been brave enough to put up a “Will Martin survive” market. William Hill did have a “Jacqui Smith exit before the general election” market last week but that was only up for a few hours and was never available online. I got on at 6/4 and that looks a good bet.
In the meantime we wait for an opinion poll. It seems an awfully long time since the ComRes “1% Tory lead” came out completely contradicting two other polls a couple of days earlier. If the Times and Populus are following their normal schedule then we should get some news by 8.30pm.