Wednesday, October 22, 2014

PMQs SKETCH: Cameron Rubs Salt Into Bercow’s Wounds

The only really enjoyable part of PMQs came right at the end in a question on immigration, and time running out. The PM broke off his answer with an abrupt change of subject to congratulate ex-Chief Clerk Sir Robert Rogers on his peerage.

It had been an indirect attack on the Speaker to make the hated Rogers a peer, now a slightly less indirect way of rubbing salt into the open wound that sits in the Speaker’s chair.

The House loved it. And not just Tories. Witnesses inside the Chamber said the cheering came from both sides of the House and went on for a parliamentary eternity (about 15 seconds).

The Speaker busied himself in conversation with his secretary. He wasn’t taking on that mob.

Feelings about the Speaker are like a tsunami wave travelling a long distance. Out at sea the wave looks like any other. Only when the seabed rises approaching land does the wave rise and reveal itself.

That was one moment of the wave passing an island. Up it reared.

In every second of every cheer the House was saying, “We know what you’re like. You bullied, browbeat, berated, swore at a decent man until he couldn’t take it any more and quit the job that meant the world to him. You have revealed yourself. And we won’t forget it.”

The occasion passes, the wave resumes its normal height, but it’s still traveling with undiminished power .

(more…)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH: A New Managerial Mess of Bercow’s Making

We’ve definitely reached peak Bercow. The poor fellow is running out in front of our eyes.

The ennoblement of Robert Rogers on Cameron’s recommendation is a marvellously indirect attack, recognised by everyone in the Commons. We all now know Rogers was hounded from office by the Speaker.

Less well known – the Speaker suffered a sharp set-back last week when the House of Commons Commission (which he chairs) voted to appoint hated, old Etonian David Natzler as temporary Chief Clerk.

Bercow voted against this – and lost.

Half the Commission is appointed by Bercow himself – his own people are starting to turn away from him.

But the position of chief executive is still vacant, as is the chair of the management board. Whom other top staff report to is unclear. It’s a managerial mess and entirely of the Speaker’s making.

Natzler is moving into the Clerk’s palatial office, and everyone underneath him has moved up as well.

Shifting them all back would cause a palace revolt.

This as much as anything makes Carol Mills’ appointment less likely than ever.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

PMQs SKETCH: Maybe Miliband Has a Chance

The Nolan principles of sketch writing – fairness, objectivity, kindness and so forth, I forget them exactly. Does he offer refresher courses?

Miliband today was, I thought, as bad as he’d ever been.

The face a mash-up of several untamed animals. The angry eight-year-old delivery. The whole package that of a bedroom boy locked away with his best friend, making economic models out of Lego. Not even worth breaking up for parts. And the drivel!

“Too harsh. He was quite good today,” one of his Labour enemies said.  “The big story is whether Freud will survive the day.”

What! No! Really? As a result of Miliband’s questions? But that must mean he did quite well!

Seriously?

(more…)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Clerk Panel Knew of Mills Before She Was Suggested for Job

Carol Mills was known to “some members” of the clerk selection panel before Saxton Bampfylde put her up for interview, it was confirmed last night. So where did her name come from? Out of the hundreds – thousands – of senior administrators in the Commonwealth’s public services, how and why did Saxton Bampfylde decide to pop Carol Mills on to their long list? One suspicion is that this eminent head hunting company was hired as a blind, to make respectable a decision that had already been made. Who on the panel knew whom?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Speaker’s Authority, Competence and Integrity Challenged

Last night, an advance in the Carol Mills story.

The House voted to set up a committee to consider the Governance of the House, including the role of the Clerk and chief executive.

Who thought procedure could be so exciting?

This is a decisive step forward. The remit is wider than expected. It allows, in theory, the source of yesterday’s Bully Bercow story to be called to give evidence.

“Governance of the House” includes control of the Speaker. When the Speaker is out of control, who controls him? That’s the essence of governance.

The Speaker’s bullying, abusive behaviour is within the remit of the committee. Allegations of committee-rigging, running candidates, planting questions, fixing appointments are all within the remit. How the dickens did he let that get through?

John Bercow will be pushing his candidates onto that committee as if his life depended on it (which it may do).

(more…)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH: Bercow’s Panel Turns on Him

An answer from John Thurso to Michael Fabricant’s written parliamentary question has been made.

Fabricant asked whether the selection panel had been aware of the Australian Senate’s investigations into Carol Mills, and if so, at what stage they had been informed.

Thurso replied: “the panel was not made aware of the investigations before reaching its conclusion.”

Saxton Bampfylde, the head hunters knew. The Speaker must have known. The selection panel did not.

The Speaker, determined for reasons unknown to place Carol Mills in the job, must have withheld the most salient piece of information. All the evidence suggests he prevailed on the panel not to ask Saxton Bampfylde into the room in order that they should not find out about the Inquiries.

The panel has been carrying the can for John Bercow’s machinations.

They are starting to decide they needn’t carry it indefinitely.

(more…)

Exclusive: Former Employee Accuses Speaker of Violent Rages
Will Testify: Rages Were Extraordinary, I Was Hit, Sworn At

BERCOW-HIT-STAFF

A former employee of John Bercow claims today that he was the victim of violent rages at the hands of the Speaker, in a series of extraordinary allegations about the Speaker’s conduct. Speaking to Guido, the respected senior former staff member in Bercow’s office said:

“If I was asked was I ever hit? I’d say yes.

If I was hit by bits of a mobile phone he smashed in one if his rages? Yes.

Did I witness him telling untruths to accuse people of wrongful behaviour? Yes.

Was I sworn at? Very regularly.

I witnessed catastrophic losses of temper. The rages were extraordinary. Arms flailing. The loss of control.”

Would this person go on the record at a select committee?

Yes.

(more…)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bercow at Bay

On Monday, the Speaker was promising to “solicit views in detail” from Members about his controversial selection of Carol Mills as Clerk of the House. “People can express their views on the floor of the House,” he said. “I want to hear what people have to say.”

Now it’s – That’s enough of that. There is no point of order further to that point of order. Let’s move on. No , no, no, la-la-la, not listening, presentation of Bills what day?

He calls his accusers in that weary, ‘here we go again’ voice, encouraging Labour to jeer and call out “Keep your hair on!” to. Michael Fabricant. For the PLP Bercow is “Our Speaker” and for that reason Bercow addresses half his rebuttals to their side, seeking their support.

Fabricant told the Speaker he’d lied to the House. He said he had it from people on the panel that Saxton Bampfylde had indeed been prevented from coming and speaking to the panel and giving information about Carol Mills. “I wonder whether, under those circumstances, you might wish to put the record straight so that the House is not misled.”

He made an ancillary point. Would the Speaker lift the threat of litigation against Saxton Bampfylde so they could publicly set the record straight?

(more…)

Gallery Guido: Will Bercow Chair Debate on His Own Conduct?


And that’s the end of the matter, the Speaker told the House. “Til Monday!” Michael Fabricant cheerfully called out.

Clerkgate has a long way to go yet.

William Hague, the new Leader of the House answered Simon Burns’ question about the status of the Mills appointment letter. He revealed that the Speaker had written to Downing St earlier in the week to ask for a further delay.

The Speaker didn’t quite conceal his feelings that his private correspondence was being aired like this.

Because it’s not what he told Burns yesterday “with crystal clarity”. He had said instead that it wasn’t for him to withdraw the letter.

His legalistic wriggling is such that the House is entitled to question everything he says.

(more…)

SPEAKER WATCH: Split the Role of the Speaker

In the FT yesterday, the Speaker developed his project to paint the outgoing Clerk Robert Rogers as a dusty old reactionary with his nose in Erskine May and wholly unsuited to managing £240m worth of public money. Therefore, his argument goes, the managerial functions of the Clerk should be taken away and given to a professional.

The Clerk’s management record will doubtless come out in the Back Bench debate but there’s no question Sir Robert put a lot of runs on the board, even for those modern teams of Inclusion and Diversity.

By contrast, the Speaker himself has never managed anything.

His staff turnover has been high, and at least one ex-employee, it is said, took six months off recovering from post-traumatic stress. His Public Engagement committee was ridiculous (see Guido passim). He is by many accounts an intrusive, mercurial, politically-driven meddler in every aspect of Palace life.

The one project we know he has managed – the appointment of a new Clerk – has been so spectacularly badly-done it may result in two or three law suits, a seven-figure compensation claim, and a complete re-run of the process from the beginning.

So, experience tells us that it isn’t the Clerk’s role that should be split but the Speaker’s. He should remain as the guarantor of parliamentary process, privilege and probity but all his management functions should be passed over forthwith to an existing in-house official who knows what he or she is doing.

A foul-mouthed bully with a penchant for megalomania and who contravenes all seven Nolan Principles of Public Life is not the model of a modern manager.


Seen Elsewhere

Tory MP Tells Leftie Jon Snow to Retire | Guardian
Russell Brand’s New Book “Sub-Undergraduate Dross” | Telegraph
Tory MP Barrister Represents Monaco Billionaire | Scrapbook
MOBO Singers Slam UKIP | ITV
Could UKIP Keep Britain in the EU? | Iain Martin
Why Piketty is Wrong | ConHome
Guido Whips Politicians Into Shape | Guardian
Milburn Levelling Down | Kathy Gyngell
Crosby and Carswell Make Friends at Guido’s Dinner | Mail
Mrs Danczuk Beats Mensch to Win Guido | Telegaph
PM Congratulates Blogger Who Destroyed Minister | Mail


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Rob Colvile reviews Russell Brand’s new book:

“Oddly, the person I feel sorriest for isn’t Brand himself – although he certainly comes across as a rather pitiable figure, projecting his own brokenness on to the world around him – but Johann Hari. Drummed out of Fleet Street for plagiarism, the former Independent columnist has washed up as “my mate Johann, who’s been doing research for this book”. For a genuinely talented polemicist, it would have been a humbling experience to have to treat this sub-undergraduate dross as the scintillating wisdom of a philosopher-king.”



Mycroft says:

Have you read the last bit of Animal Farm?

You know where the animals are looking through the Farmhouse window?

My TV screen was that window at lunch-time today.

Be careful, the sudden self-congratulatory tone, the slightly pudgy outline of indulgence and you become exactly what you should despise.

The jolly face of the Quisling Cameron poses for your camera has mesmerised and deceived you, you who were once not so deceived.

You were no firebrand, you were a damp squib in my opinion, sorry.

You need a damned good kick up the ahse!


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