Guido’s story in the Sun on Sunday revealing John Bercow’s donation from a businesswoman to whom he gave a parliamentary pass makes the front page of this morning’s Mail. At the weekend a spokesperson for the Speaker refused to confirm Sally’s drinking pal Farah Sassoon was granted a pass. Today they admit the Bercows did give a pass to Sassoon, also confirming her company made a donation to the Speaker’s campaign for re-election:
“For security purposes, House officials do not confirm names of pass holders. However, the Speaker would like to confirm that his wife applied for a pass for a female friend in 2012. It is not unusual for residents living on the Parliamentary Estate to be able to apply for passes for close friends and family. All applications go through security clearance checks.”
Farah Sassoon made a donation to ‘the Speaker’s seeking re-election’ campaign fund on 7 June 2014 (it was accepted on 1 July 2014).
The donation was towards the Speaker’s re-election fund, not to his office. As you are aware, the convention that the Speaker is independent of party dates back to the mid-18th century. When a Member of Parliament becomes Speaker of the House she or he resigns from his or her political party and run as an independent candidate under the banner of ‘the Speaker Seeking Re-Election’. The donation is for this purpose, and is listed as being so in the Register of Members’ Interests under ‘Sponsorships’, in accordance with the rules.”
Far from explain the Speaker’s position, this statement raises further questions about the probity of the donation. Why was Sassoon given a pass? How often does Sassoon visit parliament, and for what purpose? Who does she meet there? Did Bercow consult with parliamentary authorities, such as the Clerk of the Commons, on the propriety of accepting a donation having issued this pass? Does the Speaker think accepting a donation from a woman to whom he gave unfettered access to parliament is appropriate? His reply to Rob Wilson’s letter will be one to watch out for…