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Britain's speaker teeters on brink of taxpayer-cleaned moat

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LONDON – British parliamentarians have moved to oust the Speaker of the House of Commons amid a growing constitutional crisis. The problem? A stream of reports about politicians who are sticking the British taxpayer with personal expense claims, such as tennis court repairs.

Michael Martin, who as Speaker, is supposed to be above politics. Instead, he risks becoming the first speaker in 300 years to be ousted by a no-confidence motion. He made a public plea Monday to keep his job in parliament's elected second chamber.

The speaker is accused of trying to protect members of parliament by keeping the public in the dark about expenses being footed by British taxpayers.

What kind of expenses? How about $3,025 for the cost of cleaning a moat surrounding one MP's estate? Or $174 to change the light bulbs in a member of parliament's home?

Mr. Martin, a member of the ruling Labour Party, says he will be hosting an emergency meeting of leaders for discussions on reforming the discredited expenses system.

"Please let me say to the men and women of the United Kingdom, we have let you down very badly indeed and we must all accept blame," said Martin Monday.

But it may be too little, too late. Almost immediately he faced impassioned calls from members of parliament for his immediate retirement to make way for a replacement with "the moral authority to clean up Westminster."


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