Monday, August 4, 2014

Speaker Slips Into Paranoia

John Bercow has responded to increased scrutiny by briefing against his imaginary enemies to the Observer. An “ally” – in all liklihood himself or his spokesman – says he is being targeted because he is a “reforming Speaker, and some people don’t like that”, while “sources close to him” say asking for a simple explanation constitutes a “rightwing hatchet job”. He doth protest too much…

This has nothing to do with Bercow’s “reforms”, it is a simple question of why he lets a businesswoman funding his re-election campaign use parliament as a playground. The claim that his critics are all “rightwing” is patently untrue, you can read about the story in the Mirror and Tory MP Rob Wilson, who has been keeping the pressure on, is hardly a standard bearer for the right.

Bercow’s grubby mitts are all over the Telegraph today as well:

“Parliamentary passes grant the holders the right to mingle freely with ministers and MPs in Commons corridors and cafeterias, making them highly sought-after by ex-politicians who now work as lobbyists. It is understood that Mrs Sassoon’s pass does not grant her such privileges, and she can only access the wing of Palace of Westminster occupied by the Bercows.”

Officially, that may well be the case, but Sassoon has been spotted talking to ministers and MPs on the terrace on countless occasions. As Guido reported last week, she even pretended at one point to be a Labour adviser whist talking to one Tory MP and claimed to have a business relationship with Speaker’s wife to another.

What it really comes down to is that the Speaker is meant to be setting an example. The first commoner is meant to embody the rules, not wriggle above them. The example he appears happy to be setting at the moment is one where anyone can loiter around the Commons pretending to be a Labour adviser if they are your wife’s chum and they write you a cheque. So much for a ‘reforming Speaker’…

Mehdi’s Morning Glory

Morning Mehdi, you appear to have copy and pasted the wrong link into your tweet:

As you can see, the link in question is certainly not appropriate for a family blog:

Perhaps he was hacked by Mossad?

Rich’s Monday Morning View

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Get In: TechCentral at the Party Conferences

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With the pace of dramatic change and innovation in the world of technology – from driverless cars to wearable tech – public policy in the UK has lagged behind technological advances. In many respects this is due to the technology industry being more distant from politics in comparison to other public policy concerns like health and transport. Despite Britain having a large and vibrant technologically advanced economy.

Key public policy issues have in the past all enjoyed dedicated zones at the party conferences, with delegates and politicians flocking to hear about the latest advances and discuss hot issues. It’s long overdue that there was such a public forum to bridge the gap between the tech world and the political world. That new forum is TechCentral – a dedicated technology space within the secure zones at Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat party conferences, which will be attended by thousands of delegates.

It is unsurprising, given the importance of this year’s conferences ahead of next year’s general election, that TechCentral has secured partnerships with Facebook, Microsoft, EE, and TalkTalk. For example Microsoft will be offering sessions about coding and Facebook will be giving social media training for candidates using blazing fast 4G and wi-fi from EE. Afterwards Talk Talk will have you singing the night away with their X-Factor contest. Many other organisations will also be holding events in the TechCentral venue.

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A small number of opportunities for technology related organisations to hold their fringe sessions within TechCentral are still available. For more information about TechCentral, including partnership opportunities, pricing and the current agenda for each party conference, visit TechCentral or for more info email andrew@techcentral.org.uk.

Saturday Seven Up

Friday, August 1, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH: Bercow’s Choice for New Clerk of Commons

The new Clerk of the Commons has been selected but not appointed, Guido understands. The letter is at No. 10, and David Cameron will now decide whether to pass the Speaker’s recommendation to the Queen.

And who is John Bercow’s choice for the £190,000-a-year guardian of Commons propriety? Who will be sitting at the table in the chair vacated by the abused and brutalised Sir Robert Rogers?

Not the senior clerk David Natzler, his encyclopaedic knowledge of parliamentary procedure is not required. No, the nomination for the next Clerk of Clerks has gone to an Australian with no experience whatsoever of clerking.

Carol Mills is the administrator of the Canberra parliament. She represents the latest example of the Speaker’s strategy of Diminish and Rule. She won’t have the knowledge or authority to resist Bercow’s procedural innovations in the House, nor will she know enough about the Gormenghastly complexities of Westminster to act as an independent-minded chief executive (the other part of the job).

She can only aspire to be Bercow’s tool.

Guido’s advice? Cameron shouldn’t reject the nomination. Seeing a ludicrously unqualified person sitting in Sir Robert’s place may cause MPs to realise how far gone the Speaker now is.

Speaker Probed on Sally Pal’s ‘Agent’ Boast

John Bercow will be delighted to have been given another chance to explain himself after he dodged questions about his pass-for-donor mystery. Rob Wilson has this afternoon also asked the Speaker to comment on why Farah Sassoon has been going around telling people she is Sally’s agent:

“I do note however, that you did not answer my final question fully and it would be helpful for you to do so. Therefore, in the interests of full transparency I ask again; who was consulted regarding the propriety of accepting a donation from someone who has been issued a pass?

I also note that there have been several more articles regarding the nature of your wife’s relationship with Ms Sassoon. Could you please confirm that she is not, as she has reported, your wife’s agent? Likewise could you confirm or deny whether there is any kind of commercial relationship between Ms Sassoon and your wife?”

At the very least, the Speaker sorted out security clearance for a woman funding his election campaign, who according to witnesses also claims to have some sort of commercial relationship with his wife. Let’s hope he can do a bit better with his answers next week…

Another Politically Correct ASA Ruling
Chris Smith’s Council Vetoes Criticism of Anti-Smoking Ad

asa-The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), chaired by renowned part-time floods expert Chris Smith, has bizarrely overturned a ruling by its executive criticising a “misleading” Department for Heath anti-smoking advert.

During an 18 month investigation, the ASA’s executive on three separate occasions upheld a complaint by smokers’ rights group Forest, which had accused a recent Department of Health ad campaign of being “misleading” and “omitting material information”. Yet this week the ASA council announced it was overruling its executive’s decision, instead suddenly finding that the Department of Health ad wasn’t misleading after all. Forest say the decision is “inexplicable”accusing the Department of Health of “doing everything it could to derail our complaint”. A full timeline of how the ASA stonewalled the investigation before mysteriously contradicting itself can be read here.

The ASA at the same time decided to uphold complaints by tobacco control groups about Japan Tobacco’s 2013 advert which reprinted a 2011 Department of Health email about the lack of hard evidence for plain packaging. Given “hard evidence” in the context of the advert could only have meant real-life, practical evidence that did not exist in May 2011 as no country in the world had introduced plain packaging, it was hardly misleading to reprint, in full, an email written by the Department of Health. All this is occurring with just over a week to go before the end of the third UK consultation on plain packaging and there still isn’t any hard evidence to show that it works.

The ASA has a long track record of making rulings against less politically correct causes such as anti-gay marriage adverts, anti-environmentalist adverts, Fathers4Justice adverts and pro-hanging adverts. Asked by its executive to find against a politically correct government anti-smoking advert, however, the ASA council headed by Lord Smith vetoed the recommendation. Yet another example of the ASA’s politically correct agenda…

Friday Caption Contest (Speaker Fundraiser Edition)

Entries in the comments please…

Ed’s Cousin: Miliband Family’s Comedy Genius

Meet Dr Mike Keen, an impressively moustachioed former police surgeon and GP who lives in Watford. He also happens to be the son of Ralph Miliband’s sister Anna, making him Ed Miliband’s cousin.

Here he is in an old family snap with the future Labour leader:

It turns out Mike got all the family’s funny genes. Judging by his Facebook, Ed’s cousin is a bit of a comedy genius with a penchant for un-PC jokes. Guido thinks he deserves a wider audience:

Guess we now know who keeps everyone entertained at family reunions…


Seen Elsewhere

Britain’s Beheaders | Speccie
‘Underclass’ Is Dave’s Fault | Conservative Women
Civil Liberties/Privacy NGO Hires New CEO | Big Brother Watch
Why I Won’t Join UKIP | Dan Hannan
Who Will Stand Up for the Christians? | Ron Lauder
Labour Swing Extends Deep into Tory Seats | Lord Ashcroft
5 Tips for Tory Moles | LabourList
Time for a Labour Speaker | ConservativeHome
Austin Mitchell Shows Why People Hate Politicians | LabourList
Commons Should Reject Aussie Rules | Telegraph
Galloway Interviewed By Police | Standard


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Westbourne-Change-Opinion hot-button


Labour MP Austin Mitchell discusses female MPs on Newsnight:

“Are they more leadable? I don’t know, I think they probably are.”



Owen Jones says:

We also need Zil lanes.


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