Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Government Spending Spinning Out of Control
DfT Advertising for £184,000-a-Year Comms Director

Are you an expert in “cost effective marketing solutions”? Are you capable of “ensuring effective penetration into target markets”? Would you be able to “develop a social and new media strategy”? Then the Department for Transport might have just the job for you.

DfT are offering a budget-busting £770-a-day to their new Director of Communications, which, if he or she works 240 days a year, puts the successful applicant on £184,800. Making them considerably better paid than the Secretary of State. Talk about jumping on the high-speed gravy train…

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tory MP: This Isn’t About Getting Bercow

Tory MP David Morris, who revealed that Bercow’s financial backer Farah Sassoon posed as a Labour adviser while drinking on the Commons terrace, rejects the Speaker’s paranoid accusations that this is all a mean right-wing plot to get him:

“I think he’s a marvellous Speaker and a great bloke, but I worry about why we have someone purporting to be a Labour aide roaming the estate. She told me that she advised Miliband on ‘media issues’.”

Meanwhile, Bercow is taking his time to reply to the latest series of questions about that donation and that pass. Choosing his words carefully?

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’…

Friday, August 1, 2014

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…

Speaker Responds… Sort Of
Bercow Answers Raise More Pass-for-Donor Questions

John Bercow has replied to Rob Wilson’s letter, and once again the Speaker’s response raises more questions than it answers. Bercow has largely rehashed the statement his spokesperson gave to the press on Wednesday, failing to giving any explanation for why he gave a pass to a woman who is funding his re-election campaign:

Bercow says the pass only permits Sassoon access to Speaker’s House, so why is she so often seen elsewhere on the parliamentary estate, most obviously on the terrace? The Speaker admits she is security cleared, so why has he eased access to parliament for one of his donors? Bercow has as yet given no explanation. Note also that he dodges the last question – “Did you consult with any of the Parliamentary authorities” – failing to confirm whom he spoke with about the arrangement.

Crucially, the key question remains unanswered: Does the Speaker think it is appropriate to award special access to parliament to a woman who is funding his re-election campaign?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tory Secretary of State Ups Ante in Bercow Pass Row
++ Grayling: “Passes Should Not Be Given Out Lightly” ++
++ Justice Secretary Says Right That Speaker Faces Questions ++

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has weighed into the row over why John Bercow gave a parliamentary pass to a woman funding his re-election campaign. Responding to a question from Guido at his press conference this morning, Grayling warned:

“It’s certainly the case that passes to the House of Commons should not be given out lightly. They can only be given out to people who have a proper reason to be there. Any Member of Parliament, and obviously the Speaker of the House of Commons is a Member of Parliament like the rest of us, who has issued a pass to a third party, must have a good reason for doing so. And if they don’t have a good reason for doing so they will undoubtedly face questions from a great number of people as to why that is the case.”

Bercow has until tomorrow to reply to Rob Wilson’s letter, but this looks to Guido like it is heading for the Standards Commissioner…

You’d Have Thought Eid Have Checked First
Labour MP Accused of “Racial Profiling” By Constituent

How thoughtful of Labour’s Andy Slaughter to send out cards to those of his constituents who have been celebrating Eid this week. Since MPs are banned from sending out Christmas cards on expenses, let’s hope he paid for them out of his own pocket. Here’s the card received by one less than impressed constituent and Guido co-conspirator:

Javid does not celebrate Eid as he is not a Muslim, yet he was still sent a card. Replying to his MP, he accuses Slaughter of “racial profiling”:

What could possibly have made Slaughter think his constituent Javid was a Muslim?

Labour Distances Miliband From Dodgy Bercow Donor
Denial that Sassoon is “an Adviser” to Ed, Despite Her Claims

cash

A spokesman for Ed Miliband tells Guido that Ed has met Farah Sassoon on several occasions “socially”, but that she is in no way an adviser to the Labour leader, despite her claims to the contrary.

Sassoon says she does different things when she meets different people, at different times in the evening. Yet one fact is very clear…

The Labour donor and business woman has been given a pass personally by John Bercow, who now admits she is funding his re-election campaign.

That does not pass the smell test. Pun intended…

Sally’s Pass Pal Claimed to be ‘Agent’ and ‘Miliband Adviser’
Mystery Over Farah Sasson’s Donation and Access Grows

The row over Bercow’s donation/pass mystery is escalating. Tory MP Simon Burns has weighed in:

“I do not quite see why at the request of the wife of the Speaker a friend should be given a pass to the House of Commons – in that they are not usually given to MPs’ friends. It makes it look rather difficult for the Speaker when he then receives a rather nice cheque for his election campaign – and leaves him open to criticism and questions.”

David Morris MP tells Guido this morning that Farah Sassoon introduced herself to him on the Commons Terrace as ‘an adviser to Ed Miliband’ saying she advised the Labour leader ‘on all sorts of things’. Another Tory MP, speaking on the condition of anonymity for now, says that on a separate occasion Ms Sassoon claimed to be Sally Bercow’s agent. If this is true it adds a rather unsavoury commercial angle to why she has been allowed unfettered access to Parliamentary estate. Who is this mysterious character, and to what end is she really using this pass?

Whether she’s a friend, a Labour adviser, or Sally’s agent , the line from the Speaker that this is all dandy does not hold water. Crucially, Bercow’s spokesman dodged the question of whether proper advice was sought before he accepted a donation from this mysterious business woman. Even if there is an innocent explanation, as an example to all MPs, the Speaker must be whiter than white. Yet each day brings new questions…

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bercow Fails to Explain Donor Mystery

bercowGuido’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…


Seen Elsewhere

Mirror’s ‘UKIP Goggles’ App Backfires | Press Gazette
Woolas Agent Standing for UKIP | MEN
Compassionate Left in Action | Mark Wallace
Sainsbury’s Distance Themselves From Sick Cam Tweeter | Speccie
Elites Pay Price for Killing Grammar Schools | Jago Pearson
Thornberry Makes Burnham Leadership Favourite | Matthew Norman
Guido’s Column | Sun
BBC Still Ignoring Savile Evidence | Telegraph
Politicians Brought Down by Twitter | CityAm
Ed the Biggest Loser in Rochester | Trevor Kavanagh
A Just Way to Manage Migration | Mats Persson


Find out more about PLMR AD-MS


Boris on his fellow Islingtonista Emily Thornberry:

“It was an entirely run-of-the-mill English townscape, with some straightforward words to go with it. There was no obvious insult, no abuse, no overt sneering. She might have got away with it entirely, had some alert blogger not spotted it. He instantly detected the coded message that Emily Thornberry was sending to all her right-on, bien-pensant, Labour-luvvie friends in Islington, or wherever else it is that they follow her on Twitter.”



Left on Left says:

The lefties are attacking because the panellist is a millionaire and lives in a London home worth upwards of two million. Someone had best tell them he’s called Ed Miliband.


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