Lord Martin of Springburn, who has died aged 72, was, as Michael Martin, the longstanding MP for Glasgow Springburn (from 1979 until the seat was abolished in 2005) and then for Glasgow North East from 2005.

From 2000, he was also Speaker of the House of Commons until stepping down from the role, and as an MP, in 2009.

It was the job Martin had sought since early in his career, and the care and skill with which he positioned himself to take the role (though he had the support of neither the Labour or Conservative front benches at the time) might be reckoned a testament to his political nous. But his tenure was not, on the whole, a happy one.

There were at first few complaints that Martin was partisan in the job – as is traditional on the election of a Speaker, he resigned from his party.

READ MORE: Former House of Commons speaker Lord Martin dies

There were some grumblings that he was the second Labour politician in a row (after Betty Boothroyd) in the job, which many had thought would go to the Tory Sir George Young.

That, too, was a red herring. There was no longstanding convention that the role should alternate between members of the main two parties; between 1928 and 1965 every single Speaker had previously been a Conservative.

It was merely that the political memory of most of Martin’s contemporaries comprised George Thomas (Labour), Bernard Wetherill (Conservative) and Martin’s immediate (Labour) predecessor, Betty Boothroyd.

Martin had, rather, two real problems as Speaker.

The first was his own manner, and rather uncertain command of the chamber and procedure.

This led to criticism both from MPs and the media, some of it reasonably founded, but much of which indicated that there was considerable snobbery and condescension directed at him.

Whatever the motivation, it was noticeably more hostile and overt than treatment of either Thomas or Boothroyd, though they too had had working-class origins.

The other was the enormous scandal which broke out in 2009 over the expenses claims of MPs.

Martin’s high-handed manner in responding (and his rather cavalier attitude to his own expenses) were eventually to make his position untenable, as his colleagues accused him of failing to defend them, while the public outrage engulfed him as the representative, and ultimately the keeper, of a thoroughly discredited system.

READ MORE: Michael Martin takes his seat in the Lords

Voters in his own constituency, where he had once enjoyed a 70 per cent majority, told The Guardian that he was “the worst of the lot of them”.

This, too, was not altogether fair.

The rise in dubious expenses for MPs, including “flipping” main residences and claiming for items the general public thought extravagant and unwarranted, had been going on for years – in part because MPs’ pay had not kept pace with comparable occupations. It was sanctioned, and some thought actively encouraged, by the authorities.

But while Martin could not reasonably have anticipated the strength of feeling when The Daily Telegraph began publishing leaked details of MPs’ claims, he had not only done nothing when told of the necessity for reform, but had, the previous year, actively employed a series of legal tactics to block Freedom of Information requests for details.

Michael John Martin was born on July 3, 1945, in Glasgow. His father, also Michael, was a merchant seaman and his mother Mary (née McNeil) a school cleaner.

He grew up in a tenement at 91 William Street in Anderston in considerable poverty, compounded by his father’s alcoholism, which made his home life turbulent during periods of shore leave. In reaction, young Michael became a lifelong teetotaler.

He was educated at St Patrick’s Boys’ School and then served his time as a sheet metal worker, first at the Loco (the North British Caledonian Railway Yard in Springburn) and then at Rolls-Royce’s factory at Hillington.

By this stage he had become involved in union politics and by his mid-twenties was a full-time shop steward for the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (later the AEU, then the AEEU).

From 1973-74 he was a councillor for Fairfield ward on Glasgow Corporation and from 1974-79 served on Glasgow District Council for Balornock.

From 1976-79 he was also an organiser for the National Union of Public Employees.

The engineering union’s pull secured him the safe seat of Springburn, where the Labour majority had been unassailable for decades, and he was elected in 1979.

His first job, from 1981-83, was as PPS (a post usually characterised as bag-carrier) to the former Chancellor, Denis Healey, who was also sponsored by the AEU and was then Deputy Leader of the Party.

He then served three years on the Select Committee for Trade and Industry and, for a decade from 1987, as chairman of the Scottish Grand Committee, which oversaw all specifically Scottish legislation in the days before devolution.

In 1997 he became First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (one of the three Deputy Speakers), before inheriting the post on Betty Boothroyd’s retirement.

Martin owed his success in part to the huge Labour majority, and to many backbenchers’ suspicion of Sir George Young’s candidacy (partly because of his perceived poshness, grandness and general out-of-touchness, but mainly because he had quite recently served as a frontbench spokesman).

A few Conservatives, meanwhile, were prepared to back him as a representative of “Old Labour” – Martin’s stances tended to be socially conservative (he opposed, for example, the reduction in the age of homosexual consent from 21 to 18), and his political allegiances were to figures such as Healey and Roy Hattersley, rather than the leading lights of “New” Labour.

There were several notable rows during his tenure.

It was revealed that he had spent £1.7 million refurbishing the Speaker’s apartments over his tenure. His wife Mary was criticised for taking taxis at public expense to go shopping, and he spent the air miles he had notched up as an MP to fly several relatives to London for a New Year’s Eve party.

READ MORE: Former House of Commons speaker Lord Martin dies

In 2006, he ruled a question by David Cameron to Tony Blair out of order, a judgment which caused so much uproar at question time that he threatened to suspend the session.

More damaging was his failure to prevent a police search – conducted without a warrant – of the MP Damian Green’s offices, and then his efforts to pin the blame on the new serjeant-at-arms.

The expenses scandal which finally forced him from office – though it was officially a resignation, the MP Douglas Carswell had already tabled a vote of confidence which Martin would certainly have lost – made him the first Speaker to be pushed out the role since Sir John Trevor in 1695.

It was a less happy precedent than his other claim to fame, as the first Roman Catholic to become Speaker since the Reformation.

The turning point was probably his ill-tempered criticism, in the House, of several MPs (including Labour’s Kate Hoey) who had questioned his handling of the matter.

When at last he stood down, there were even suggestions that he would be denied the peerage traditionally accorded to an outgoing Speaker (though in the end he was raised to the peerage as Baron Martin of Springburn, sitting as a Crossbencher).

Martin underwent treatment for heart disease in 2006, leading to a short period of absence from the Commons.

He was a regular attender at the Lords until late last year, when he took a leave of absence.

Away from politics, his recreations were hill-walking, folk music, cake, and piping. He was proud of his membership of the College of Piping.

He married, in 1966, Mary McLay, with whom he had a son and a daughter.