Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bercow’s “Pause” Formally Terminated

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The Speaker’s attempt to stitch up the Commons clerk job for disgraced Aussie Carol Mills is officially over. A report by the House of Commons Governance Committee published today finds that “the ‘paused’ recruitment process for Clerk of the House/Chief Executive should be formally terminated”, ruling the Clerk job should be split:

“The Clerk of the House should remain Head of the House service, appointed by Letters Patent, but should not also be titled Chief Executive; A new post of Director General of the House of Commons should be created, reporting to the Clerk but with clearly delineated autonomous responsibilities for the delivery of services”

They conclude: “we propose new recruitment processes for the Clerk of the House and the Director General of the House of Commons which are in line with modern recruitment practice”. Jack Straw did not want the report to be critical of the Speaker, he wants the reforms to command wide support and be implemented, they almost certainly will. This is implicitly as much of a slap down for the Speaker the Governance Committee was ever going to give…

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Speaker’s Nemesis Named Speccie Parliamentarian of the Year

Ouch.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

PMQs SKETCH: E.D. Phone Home!

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Good old Brooks Newmark, he hath done the sketch some service.

On a question about the inner workings of the penile system and afflictions of the testicles there he was, lounging behind the questioner in his paisley-coloured dreamland. He’s certainly in touch. He definitely gets it.

Unlike – oh how very unlike – our friend who speaks for the Labour Party on these occasions.

Ed Miliband brought his finger to the fore. Long and odd, as you’d expect in an alien. It’s an open secret, isn’t it? The Labour leader is not of this world. He belongs in the basket of a little boy’s bicycle. We’re all waiting – I mean literally everyone is waiting – for the Miliband  fingertip to light up and for him to croak, “Home!” Oh, the relief in his party on that joyful day.

For his weekly turn, Ed let out six fluent streams of static, six bursts of passionate telemetry. It’s a language Geiger counters understand well.

Decoded, it appears he wants us to believe that the NHS in crisis. Which it may very well be.  Cameron’s complete answer consists of: 1) Labour wanted to cut its funding. And 2) The country needs to make the money before it can be spent on health.

That is the only answer necessary and one he gives every week. For all his other-worldly intelligence, Miliband hasn’t found a way round or through it.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Speaker Watch: Lansley Wounds Bercow

The wheels of a Parliament grind slow but they grind fine.

Andrew Lansley’s evidence to the Governance committee this week is very damaging to John Bercow’s prospects.

The committee was set up to look at the Speaker’s (disastrous) handling of the appointment of chief Clerk of the Commons. As Guido pointed out early in the year, it was clear that Bercow was operating a policy of Diminish and Rule to increase his suffocating grip on Commons life.

Abolishing, or massively diminishing, the office of Clerk would give him unrestrained access to the powers and budgets of department heads.

Andrew Lansley confirmed in evidence that Bercow ran the recruitment as if it was his own personal process (in our view, to appoint the one person he had in mind from the outset).

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Oz Senator Accuses ‘Canberra Caterer’

An antipodean co-conspirator draws Guido’s attention to Australian Senator John Faulkner’s damning assessment yesterday of John Bercow’s choice for the next Commons clerk. Carol Mills was up before a scrutiny committee to explain why the records of $30,000 worth of photographs that she commissioned from a photographer, who happened to be her neighbour, have gone missing. Now Faulkner is accusing Mills of telling porkies, telling the Australian parliament:

“The Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services has stated at estimates that she knew the photographer—Anne Zahalka—and in fact they live in the same street. At the most recent estimates round, I asked the DPS secretary, Ms Mills, whether this raised the obvious question of either a conflict of interest or a perceived conflict of interest?’ In response, the secretary informed the committee: “I did not interfere, involve myself or influence in any way any of that process.”

…Last night, the committee was informed by DPS, despite Ms Mills’s earlier assurances, that she was involved in the final decision to contract Anne Zahalka. Despite her October statement to the committee that she ‘did not interfere, involve myself or influence in any way any of that process’, she actually signed off the contract offered to Anne Zahalka. According to evidence from DPS officers to the committee, the secretary was being briefed and kept in the loop about the photography contract. The secretary also signed off on a decision relating to some of the commercial aspects of the arrangements with Ms Zahalka.”

Faulkner says this “raises very serious questions about the probity and transparency” of Mills’ actions. How did this person even come close to taking over Parliament? 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mills and the Missing Paperwork
$30,000 Mystery Hangs Over Bercow’s Favourite

The Canberra Caterer is covering herself in glory again down under. Speaker Bercow’s preferred choice to be the next Clerk of the Commons has once again been hauled in front of a scrutiny committee of the Australian parliament to explain her actions.

“I feel that the standards in the department have not met the expectations that I would’ve had coming into the department nor have we been able to fix them as quickly as I would’ve liked,” says Carol Mills in regard to why the records of $30,000 worth of photographs that she commissioned from a photographer, who happened to be her neighbour, have gone missing. “It’s regrettable that we still have gaps but we’re certainly striving hard to improve systems and we’ll take any learnings… very seriously,” claimed Mills in pure management speak.

What was it about this incompetent pen pusher that so captivated the Speaker’s attention?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Perhaps This is Why Bercow is So Short-Tempered With Dave

Bercow Lessons on “Straight-Dealing & Respect for Parliament”

Not content with telling off Theresa May earlier in the week, the Speaker is now very upset with Dave for announcing his new terror laws in Australia rather than in parliament:

“What people want is straight-dealing, honouring of commitments and respect for parliament.”

Perhaps unruly politicians can take a leaf out of the Speaker’s book. He was a paragon of straight-dealing and respect for parliament during the pass-gate and Carol Mills rows…

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

7 Grand Slam: Bercow’s Commons Intervention for Donor

This summer the Speaker of the House of Commons netted £7,510 in donations from the Lawn Tennis Association. It’s a nice perk of the job for John Bercow to sit in the Royal Box at Wimbledon and attend two other tennis matches with no expense spared. It was equally nice of the impartial and above reproach Speaker to return the favour…

“I think the record shows that as Speaker I have taken the lead in cleaning up politics”, said Bercow in 2010. Yet, eleven days ago he took the extraordinary step of intervening in a Commons debate in order to encourage the building of more tennis courts, and promote – by name – the LTA. His donor:

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Oliver Colvile: The Government passed the Localism Act more than two years ago and Plymouth city council, which is controlled by the Labour party, has identified Collins park tennis courts as surplus to requirements and might well seek to build on them. It claims that it has not made a decision, but has published a planning brief. Please may we have a debate on the progress that local communities and neighbourhoods have made in protecting green inner-city areas such as mine in Plymouth?

Mr Hague: I think a debate on these issues would be most welcome to illustrate the opportunities that are now open. The Localism Act 2011 gives communities the opportunity to list valuable local assets and so far some 1,500 assets of community value have been listed. Green spaces are the second most popular listing, along with parks, village greens, open land and even, in one case, a mountain. I encourage my hon. Friend to pursue a debate on these matters.

Mr Speaker: Of course, we cannot get involved in individual planning applications, but I hope that I can be forgiven for saying that we need more tennis courts in this country and not fewer. That is a matter about which I feel very strongly, as does the Lawn Tennis Association and a great many other people besides.

The Speaker is meant to be above the fray, whiter than white and a shining example to all MPs. Any other MP caught pushing the cause of a donor without at least giving a nod to their register of interests would be hauled up to give a grovelling apology to the House.

Should Bercow be allowed to swerve the rules like this?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Carol Mills “Hit by a Bus” in Senate Finance Hearing

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The famous Carol Mills – John Bercow’s personal candidate for the position of Clerk of the Commons – was up in front of an Australian Senate finance committee this week.

An “excruciating process” (in the words of one present) extracted a number of admissions and confessions that undermine her reputation in the Commons as a “world-class administrator”.

· * Her department hasn’t had a Chief Financial Officer for 12 months.

· * While she chairs the Security management Board – a separate security panel was set up without her knowledge.

· * The threat level may have been fiddled to help justify a $400,000 cut in the security budget.

· * While cuts were being made and improvements to parliamentary facilities were being denied – she spent $3m on refitting her office (nearly twice the original estimate).

· * A contract for $30,000 to take 10 photographs was given to a friend and neighbour of hers from the same Sydney street.

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