Labour needs to take a breath on Speaker

Last updated 14:02 25/06/2009

Is Labour seriously contemplating a motion of no confidence in Speaker of the House Lockwood Smith? Or is Trevor Mallard just letting off some steam?

After Tuesday's bust-up in the House between Mallard and Prime Minister John Key, Mallard got tossed from the House for 24 hours by Smith for calling Key a liar and then refusing to apologise.

Mallard got angry because technically he only said Key's "nose was growing longer'' not that he was a liar - which is not allowed in Parliament.

But anyone who's read their children's fables knows that to say someone's nose is growing is to call them a liar.

Now, I agree with Mallard on the substance of the issue he was debating with the Prime Minister. I don't believe it is sufficient for Key to simply say he's not going to reveal his reasons for sacking Richard Worth because it wouldn't be in the public interest to do so.

The public interest is an arguable proposition at the best of times, but even assuming there was such a thing, the Government could use it to cover any number of sins it didn't want published.

There are all kinds of things the Government probably doesn't want the public to know, but whether that means it would be damaging to the public interest if we did know is quite another matter.

I think that should probably be confined to matters of security or involving the nation's defence or economy. I doubt Richard Worth's private liaisons fall into that category.

However, that doesn't excuse Mallard challenging Smith's decision to toss him from the Chamber. Perhaps the Labour MP got the short end of the stick - Smith already had trigger-finger from earlier exchanges during Question Time.

But to argue, as Mallard did, that it was "the most blatantly biased decision of the year'' is taking things way too far.

Initially Mallard seemed to be suggesting taking a motion of no-confidence in the Speaker, but later said on his blog that Labour would "wait for a better case''.

I think he and his colleagues need to draw a deep breath and wait for a considerably better case.

Lockwood Smith is the best thing to happen to Opposition parties since Question Time was invented. He is easily the most fair, unbiased, and straightforward Speaker Parliament has had in years.

In sports parlance, he's a ref who plays advantage and isn't always on the whistle. When Mallard took a frankly pathetic point of order yesterday to complain that Key wasn't addressing the chair when he was speaking, but had his back to him, Smith shut him down quick-smart, saying he was more interested in what the Prime Minister was saying than how he was standing.

That's what I like about Lockwood Smith. He doesn't suffer foolish or pedantic points of order. He's all but stamped out the tabling of press releases. He requires ministers to answer, not just address the question. And he doesn't yell "order'' every five seconds for some minor transgression.

As a result, I think Parliament is a much more smooth-running and frankly democractic place.

Smith has thrown out far fewer MPs so far than his predecessor Margaret Wilson, and it was always odds-on that Mallard would be the one to finally go.

Overall, Labour should thank its lucky stars Lockwood Smith is the Speaker and quit moaning. In the unlikely event it did force a vote of no confidence, who would replace him? Is there anyone who would be any better?

I doubt it.




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Sheelagh   #1   02:10 pm Jun 25 2009

Sounds like Rambo Mallard is due for another course on anger management

RichardRight   #2   02:27 pm Jun 25 2009

Colin I think your blog should be titled "Labour should HOLD their breath....and hold....and hold....and hold...preferably ongoing"

Alan Wilkinson   #3   02:32 pm Jun 25 2009

Ha, there is no need or reason whatever for Key to say why he sacked Worth if he doesn't want to, just as I said long ago.

Get over it, Colin. Find something important to ask about, like a timetable for fixing all the messed up Government departments.

And if Mallard likes to shoot himself in both feet while simultaneously trying to stuff them into his mouth, well, let's just all laugh again and enjoy the spectacle.

Perhaps you should ask Goff when he's going to sack Mallard?

Troy   #4   02:37 pm Jun 25 2009

I absolutely agree with you Colin. Smith does take quite a considered approach to events that occur in the House and I think that if the Speaker had been anyone else (especially past Speakers), he would have probably been named. Mallard got off scott-free in that respect.

I'm watching parliament as I type and I notice that Smith often tries to educate, particularly those in the Opposition regarding, about the rules of the House. Labour haven't been in Opposition for a long time I think they have forgotten how to operate effective as an Opposition - particularly in the way they ask questions. Obviously National replies often just as Labour used to when they were in Government.

Mallard is a worry. He does appear to have an anger management issue and is damaging the Labour face in parliament (and so early in the election cycle - but early enough for people to remember!).

jennifer   #5   02:43 pm Jun 25 2009

Lockwood Smith is the most politically partisan Speaker I can remember. He needs to decide whether he is Speaker or a Minister, in my view, as he is behaving as both. I'm puzzled that the phrase 'his nose is growing longer' is taken to be saying the subject of the comment is a liar, when the phrase 'crying wolf' is not, used by Key after the Mallard incident, and nor is 'if you can believe anything that Member says', used by English after the Mallard incident?

Dave   #6   02:49 pm Jun 25 2009

Mallard does seem to come across as a petulant little child who tosses his toys when he doesnt get his own way. It's pretty obvious that he called Key a liar, and that that was out of line. Instead of apologising for overstepping the line though, he challenges the speaker? He has an appearance of a whole holier than thou, arrogant, I should be able to get away with whatever I deem suitable attitude and frankly, I think he's indicative of the image that labour needs to rid itself of in order to reconnect with voters. Ridding themselves of Mallard would be a good start.

Ben   #7   02:51 pm Jun 25 2009

Don't agree with Jennifer at all. And I voted Labour in the last election for the record.

Compare the quality of answers from Labour ministers to this governments and it has gone through the roof. This is all due to Lockwood enforcing standards and demanding questions be answered.

I like Trevor but this attack has no ground.

Good work Richardright. Another boring typical response.

Peter S   #8   03:12 pm Jun 25 2009

I wonder if Goff is thinking along the taser lines like Clark did with Mallard.

Mallard is a lose canon, and this outburst is only going to damage Labour and his own reputation.

Look at his history. First he supposedly strikes Bob Clarkson with a sheaf of papers, then he goes toe to toe with Tau, now he blows a foo foo valve at the best speaker the country has had in decades.

Not a good look.

Even if Smith's decision was partisan (and the most so this year), Mallard has no room for complaint, considering the performance of other speakers over Labour's reign. Margaret Wilson made a mockery of the position of speaker, bringing it to probably its lowest position ever in the public's esteem.

I suspect Goff will be telling Mallard to keep his big mouth shut on the issue, because the last thing Labour need is a speaker of the caliber of their last offering. I rather think Labour would have a speaker that makes the government ministers answer questions.

Considering Mallard himself was happy to shelter behind the frilly petticoats of the shrieking banshee Wilson with the rest of the Labour front bench, whilst ducking and diving to avoid answering questions, he is short of legs upon which to stand.

I think he and Labour will find themselves to be out of touch with the public on this one. Goodbye traction.

Zozza   #9   03:27 pm Jun 25 2009

We all love dust-ups in union and league games, so why not parliament? Forget about the name calling lets have a full on scrap, just like they do in some of the asian parliaments. Actually, there is a precedent as Mallard has already beat up one National wimp, Tau whathisname.

Kat   #10   03:34 pm Jun 25 2009

Careful Jennifer you will be accused of making too much sense. Everybody of course will come down on Mallard. Oh what a naughty boy. Pity the speaker of the house was selected from outside the current parliamentary political parties. Someone like Colin who is a neutral would be fairer. But then who said our two party system is fair anyway.

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