Friday, August 8, 2014

Questions Mount Over Speaker’s Choice for Commons Clerk

“Bercow appears to have won his battle  for an outsider to run the Commons,” the Guardian’s political editor tweets.

No, no. The battle is very far from won.

Questions around the selection of Australian Carol Mills as Clerk of the House are multiplying.

Did John Bercow fly to the e-democracy conference in South Korea this May to meet her? Is it proper for the chair of the selection panel to meet candidates privately?  Did he give her information that would help her in the interview process?

Were there other irregularities in the interview process?

Was the fact that Carol Mills is the subject of an Australian parliamentary inquiry (for covert surveillance of staff and parliamentarians) disclosed to the selection panel?

Why was Margaret Hodge put on the panel? What is her relationship with the senior clerk David Natzler? Was she chosen because she was not favourably disposed towards him owing to a prior dispute?

Where is the letter nominating Carol Mills? It went to Downing Street a week ago. Has it gone to the Queen?

Sir Robert’s resignation takes effect at the end of this month. What happens if the nomination is not confirmed before the Commons returns at the beginning of September, will Natzler, as the highest-ranking clerk fill the role?

Who will be sitting in the Clerk’s chair when the Commons reconvenes?

It’s not a done deal yet.

PS: Will Carol Mills get a work visa? There are other able women who are British citizens who are better qualified for the job. Will she get the visa in time? Has the visa application been conducted properly, without undue influence from the Speaker’s office?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Speaker’s Choice for Commons Clerk Faces Oz Spying Scandal

Carol Mills, the Speaker’s choice for the new Chief Clerk of the Commons (salary £190,000 pa), has good reason to want an escape route from her current job down under. The Australian parliament’s Department for Parliamentary Services, run by Mills, has just been placed under investigation by the authorities in Oz. Earlier this year Mills confessed that her department may have used CCTV cameras to spy on a whistleblower and a Labor senator. The report into the scandal is due early next year, by which time Mills should have settled in at Westminster…

There’s something fishy about this entire selection process. If the Speaker particularly wanted the job to go to a woman, why did female clerk Phillipa Helm not even get on the long list? Bercow may have thought she didn’t have enough experience to clerk the Commons – but then he arranged the appointment of someone who has no experience of Commons clerking at all.

How did Carol Mills surface? Was she approached directly by the Speaker? There are rumours that the outside candidates were given improper information about their chances. And how will MPs react to a foreign administrative functionary with no experience of the Commons sitting in the Clerk of Clerks chair? If this is reform, the reforming Speaker may find himself increasingly isolated.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

PMQs SKETCH: The Best Reshuffle in Modern Times

Animal noises greeted Cameron’s arrival in the Commons. Countrymen will have recognised the noise that hogs make when the swill bucket arrives. Oh, it’s such a time to be a Tory. The best reshuffle in modern times has put the party onto an election-winning footing. They express their pleasure in the most elemental way.

Emma Lewell-Buck couldn’t make a dent in their cheerfulness:

“There are more bald men with £5m property portfolios and sons at public school going out with girls called Tallulah than there are women in the cabinet,” she declared, nearly.

Cameron said the gynemetrics of the cabinet were pretty good and absent those hoary reactionaries of the Liberal Democrats they’d be even better: a third of Conservative cabinet is now female.

Every week Cameron looks easier, calmer, more in control of his party, his policy and his election plan – and every week his opponent dances at the despatch box like a spastic marionette. What a rout it’s turning into.

(more…)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

SKETCH: Only Talking About Kids Makes Ed Look Grown Up

Consensual Ed. What’s that about? Again, he was picking a cross-party subject to consensualise on. It might from week to week be – Our Glorious Dead, They Died For Us. The Queen, God Bless Her. Those Evil Islamicists Are So Un-British.

This week it was Child Abuse Can’t Go On.

Good choice. It let Ed make his Who Will Speak For the Children? face. It stopped Cameron backing him into a corner and bashing his face in. And talking about children made him look more grown-up. Triple win.

(more…)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

SKETCH: Ed’ Speech, Written by a Policy Poppet Intern

The speech Ed Miliband has just given to the Policy Network wasn’t a speech, it was a brief for a speech.

An intern, a 27-year-old policy poppet would have written a series of notes for the Leader:

We need to support a culture of long-termism. How do we say that in human?

It’s about people. People being the most important asset. Is there a way of saying that that isn’t fifty years old?

We need to celebrate business. Obviously we can’t just say that.

(more…)

Labour’s ‘Stop Steve’ Campaign Backfires
The Mystery of Dennis Skinner’s Ejection from the NEC

Bolsover’s famous beast, much-loved by Labour, was voted off the NEC yesterday to the bafflement of the party, the anger of members, and the curiosity of the political commentariat.

Dennis Skinner is the authentic voice of Labour at a time when authenticity is sorely lacking in its limp-wristed, intellectual leftiness. He works incessantly for the party, speaking, organising, geeing up the troops.

Why would  John Healey stand against him?

Maybe he didn’t.

Maybe he was standing against Steve Rotheram, the moaning member for Merseyside.

After Ed Miliband’s posing with the Sun, Rotheram criticised him. Said it shouldn’t have happened. Sought meetings with his leader’s office. Rubbed salt in the open wound that is the party leader.

Is it possible that the leader’s office was so petty, so spiteful, so incompetent as to organize against Steve Rotheram and end up decapitating one of Labour’s most prominent assets?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

PMQs SKETCH: When Teenage Ed Campaigned to Leave the EU

Cruel, cruel Tony Baldry. He told the House about the 1983 election and Labour’s anti-Europe commitments of the time. And how a 13-year-old boy had delivered a leaflet through his letterbox on behalf of Michael Foot. “That boy, now leader of the Labour party,” he said in his large, deep, fat-uncle manner.

“That boy, now leader of the Labour party.”

Little Ed’s pain was visible. And for those who have an appetite for that sort of thing, palpable.

There he was on the front bench, shoulders down, smiling wanly, slightly angling his smooth, young face towards the big bruiser next to him. He had grown up by four or five years since 1983 but was clearly the junior partner as Big Ed joined in the joshing and rollicking that Cameron was dishing out.

“Not my idea of fun,” Cameron laughed about delivering leaflets at the age of 14. “What was your idea of fun?” Big Ed kept jabbing. “Not hanging out with the shadow chancellor,” Cameron said. “I feel sorry for the Leader of the Opposition who has to hang out with him all the time!”

Tories were entering a stage of pre-climactic pleasure, Big Ed was pointing, pouting, heckling, laughing back.

Little Ed sat shyly, too young to join in the game.

(more…)

Monday, June 30, 2014

SKETCH: Juncker Statement Gives Ed a New Purpose

We may have found a use for Ed Miliband. We’re going to put him in for the Turner. He’s art. He’s an installation. Not lifelike of course, not comprehensible, very expensive and widely agreed to be useless.

Art!

This afternoon he looked like the conductor of a hyper-nationalist Last Night of the Proms. The Tories were the orchestra. He pointed his finger at the horn section. They blared patriotic fervour. He jabbed at the strings, they hit the high notes. He waved his arms at them all, “More! More!” he screamed, and they rose en masse to his level. “Wilder!” he cried. “More passion, more fury!” Oh, how they responded, louder still and louder.

The prime minister had been humiliated, isolated, routed, he said. Tory spirits soared. The prime minister was incompetent, absurd, toxic. Tory cheers lifted the roofbeams. He had failed, he was in tatters, he’d been outwitted, outmanoeuvred and outvoted.

The Conservative party felt themselves heading towards the fourth or fifth of their seven heavens.

One after another they rose to congratulate, thank, encourage the Prime Minister: Howarth, Redwood, Cash, Lilley, Edward LEIGH!

Five points up in the polls. A party united as never before. Cameron’s lordly ease and gentlemanliness has returned.

And the opposition is led by Tracey Emin’s unmade bed.

After very many years, it’s time to be a Tory.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

PMQs SKETCH: Labour’s Criminals in Downing Street

Ed Miliband achieved the impossible today. He finished his J’Accuse an even more diminished leader than when he began.

Weak, weak, weak! The Tories chanted. “I’ll tell you what’s weak,” Ed said weakly, “it’s failing to stand up for the right thing.”

Cameron’s definition of weak was more detailed: “Attacking Rupert Murdoch, posing with a copy of the Sun and then apologising for it! That’s weak!”

And then, of course, Alastair Campbell, Jo Moore and Damian McBride.

Ed’s lead-line, his headline, his top line was: “You brought a criminal into Downing Street.”

It’s not a bad line, in fact. It’s nasty. It resonates at a childhood level of right and wrong. And it’s sinister.

But then, but then . . . Criminals in Downing Street.

Ed himself has an adviser publicly accused of Class A drug use. His predecessors, as Cameron pointed out, have a variety of real victims to their account. From David Kelly to the Paddington rail crash survivors to Conservative MPs to half a million Iraqis…

(more…)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

SKETCH: The Ghost of Coulson Reaches Treasury Questions

Treasury questions began with the single most depressing sentence that can fall on Labour ears. The fact is, Osborne declared, we are experiencing the fastest growth in employment since records began.

What a terrible time to fight an election from the left – its ideology is being cut to ribbons by events.

In a time of public sector cuts, employment is unaccountably soaring.

Tax cuts are perversely producing higher tax revenues.

Austerity refuses to stifle growth even though anyone who is anyone knows it must.

And while the Right keeps talking about its long term economic plan (14 mentions today), the Left has neither a long term communications strategy – or even a short term one (their Leader’s Welfare reforms from last week: 0 mentions).

Ed Balls looked like the stuffing had been knocked out of him. That’s a lot of stuffing. (more…)


Seen Elsewhere

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
Bribes, Lies and Curry in Tower Hamlets | Standard
Tory MP Breaks Cover on Canberra Crisis | BBC
Labour MP: Wimmin’ Stop Us Bombing ISIS | Speccie
Peace Envoy Arrives on Italian Coast | Mail


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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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