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…

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…

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tory MP Probes Speaker’s Passholder Donation Mystery

On Sunday Guido revealed that John Bercow is facing accusations of ‘cash for access’ over a curious donation from a businesswoman to whom he gave a parliamentary pass. For any other MP such an arrangement would provoke suggestions of impropriety. Today Tory MP Rob Wilson has sought clarification from the Speaker, with a view to potentially reporting him to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards:

Dear Mr Speaker,

I am writing to you today to raise the concerns of several of my constituents about an item in Guido Fawkes’ column in the Sun on Sunday. It outlines that you have signed off on a Parliamentary pass for Farah Sassoon. The item continues that in addition to your signing off on a pass for her that she has donated substantial sums to your office via her company, Trust Reservations Ltd. Appropriately, this donation has been put into the Register of Members’ Interests.

Integrity, accountability and openness, are part of the seven Nolan Principles of Public Life which are enshrined into Parliament by their inclusion in Code of Conduct for MPs. In this spirit and on behalf of my constituents, I would request that you put on the record as soon as possible answers to the following questions:

1. Why Ms Sassoon was given a Parliamentary pass?
2. What kind of pass was she given? (Member’s Staff, Staff of the House etc.)
3. When was this pass issued, and when does it expire?
4. What was the intended purpose of her company’s donation to your office?
5. Did you consult with any of the Parliamentary authorities, such as your foremost adviser, the Clerk of the Commons, on the propriety of accepting a donation having issued this pass?

I am sure that you will be able to provide a speedy answer to my questions and would request that you do so by Friday 1st of August. Several of my constituents have suggested that I write directly to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, however in the first instance I feel it is appropriate that you should be afforded the opportunity to respond.

In the interests of transparency I am placing a copy of this letter in the public domain.

Yours sincerely,

Rob Wilson MP

Has Bercow fallen a little short of the standards of probity expected in public life? Guido awaits the answer, especially to question 5…

Ruffley Resignation Raises Recall Row

The Recall measures announced in the Queen’s Speech would mean MPs on the Standards Committee, not local voters, will decide whether disgraced politicians should be booted out. David Ruffley’s announcement last night that he would be standing down at the election shows why it is crucial that parliament passes a proper Recall bill, not Nick Clegg’s fudge. 

Who pushed the Ruffley story and forced him to fall on his sword? Not his fellow MPs on either side of the House, who were either silent or actively trying to keep him out of trouble. The people saw things differently though…

Ruffley went mainstream because of the admirable work of women both inside and outside of the Tory party; from the Dean of St Edmundsbury’s devastating letter calling for him to quit; to the voices of women’s groups both locally and nationally, to the petition that amassed more than 40,000 signatures organised by an outraged woman. Guido understands 15 Tory women were going to publicly and openly protest Ruffley’s candidature tomorrow, some of them high profile. They were under immense pressure not to go ahead from within the party.

Ruffley will remain as the MP for Bury St Edmunds for ten months, earning more than £50,000 from his salary and pension contributions courtesy of the taxpayer when he should arguably be leaving parliament immediately. He cut a deal with the Tories and remains on board the gravy train. A Recall Bill that lets MPs decide whether their fellow MPs will face a vote is not going to work. David Ruffley shows more than ever why we need a proper Recall Bill to democratically boot out morally bankrupt politicians once and for all…

You can see all Guido’s stories about how the Ruffley story unfolded in full here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bercow Faces ‘Cash for Access’ Accusations
Speaker Accepts Donation From Sally’s Security-Cleared Pal

John Bercow is facing accusations of ‘cash for access’ after Guido revealed he has accepted a donation from a businesswoman to whom he gave a parliamentary pass. Farah Sassoon, who is a close friend of Sally Bercow and is well known for her booze-fuelled exploits with the Speaker’s wife, was granted clearance by the Bercows allowing her to bypass parliament’s security checks. Handy for Farah, since she is a significant donor to the Labour Party; giving them £40,000 through her hotel reservations company.

What did the Speaker get in return for giving Farah unfettered access to parliament? Surely the £5,000 donation from her company Trust Reservations Ltd this month is completely unrelated. If this were any other MP this would provoke allegations of cash for access. Though surely Bercow as Speaker is squeaky clean and beyond reproach…

Friday, July 18, 2014

Va Bene! Silvio Acquitted

The Italian appeals court has today acquitted Silvio Berlusconi in his underage prostitution “Rubygate” trial. He had been sentenced to seven years behind bars but now walks free. Salute!

UPDATE: His ban on holding public office has also been overturned, reports AP. Time for a comeback?


Seen Elsewhere

Cam Cannot Stem EU Immigration | David Keighley
9 Mansion Tax Questions for Ed Balls | TPA
Politicians are Lying to You About Immigration | Alex Wickham
Give Journalists Public Interest Defence in Law | Guardian
Cameron is Going to Have to Deal With UKIP | Dan Hodges
Opinions on Key Issues By Constituency | Red Box
Britain Irrelevant Inside EU | Dan Hannan
Cameron Heading for Fall on Europe | Rachel Sylvester
Lords Speaker Spends £350 on Two Mile Limo Ride | Sun
Shapps Slaps Down Barroso “Propaganda” | City AM
Bookies v Pollsters: What We Learned From IndyRef | Paddy Power


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Chris Bryant talks to the Times Diary about a famous gay actor:

“I don’t think I’ve had sex with him. He says we had sex in Clapham. I’m fairly certain I’ve never had sex south of the river”



Progressive Inclusion Champion says:

Great to hear Carswell call for inclusive policies and that UKIP must stand for first and second generation immigrants as much as the English.


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