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…

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…

Monday, July 21, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH: Bercow Cracks Joke in Ukraine/Gaza Debate

The PM was updating the House on the situation in Ukraine and Gaza, with MPs paying tribute to those who lost their lives and discussing what Britain’s response should be.

Enter stage left, John Bercow. Carrying a tin ear.

The Speaker interrupted the House’s discussion about Hamas with a joke about Cameron playing tennis:

Another black mark. 

UPDATE: A Westminster wag points out that Bercow has a book out soon on tennis.

Friday, July 18, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH: Runners and Riders for Clerk of the House

The decision on the new Clerk is expected soon. It’s down to three candidates: two women and the next-senior clerk David Natzler.

The pale male is the egregiously superior candidate. Natzler is qualified in procedure, experienced in the intricacies and mysteries of the House. His main liability? Apart from the most unfortunate name in the parliamentary manifest, he’s an old Etonian.

The Speaker has stacked the selection panel to put his preferred candidate in. Speaker Watch believes this to be one Carol Mills, an Australian, currently the parliamentary Head of Administration in Canberra.

However, the House wants Natzler and that may force the Speaker’s hand.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH: Bercow’s “F**k Off” Bust Up With Fabricant

The Speaker didn’t take too kindly to being reminded of the time he launched a four-letter tirade at the Clerk of the House by Michael Fabricant this afternoon. The chamber was stunned to silence and poor Bercow didn’t know quite how to respond as the expletive made its way into Hansard:

A Clinton-esque reply from Bercow, giving himself just enough wriggle room. Of course Fabbers was technically wrong that Bercow told Robert Rogers to “*.*.*.* off”. Guido understands the full quote was: “F**k off Robert, can’t you see we haven’t finished yet…”

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH: Bercow isn’t Happy

John Bercow is a little cross. Short-tempered, you might say. Definitely not Happy. Why? Well, some small-minded MPs have been making jokes about the Speaker’s height, presumably hoping they would go over his head. 5ft6 Bercow’s attempts to be the bigger person fell short, however, when he claimed that mocking someone’s size was only a little off racism or homophobia:

“Whereas nobody these days would regard it as acceptable to criticise someone on grounds of race or creed or disability or sexual orientation, somehow it seems to be acceptable to comment on someone’s height, or lack of it”

Equality campaigners say that’s a tall order. Guido would poke fun, but feels that’s beneath him…

Thursday, July 3, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH: Pointless Parliamentary Vanity Prizes

Browsing the Parliamentary Intranet, as is his wont, Guido has come across the ‘The Diversity and Inclusion Awards’ that took place on Monday. Another Bercow wheeze that we are paying for. “All parliamentary passholders are eligible to be recognised by the annual award”, and apparently the judges “had a hard job to choose from the high calibre of nominations, over 40 of which were submitted.” Don’t all rush at once.

Congratulations to all the worthy winners, in these powerful categories:

Embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Runner-up: Martin Smith (Deputy Business Relationship Manager, PICT)
Winner: John Thursfield (Portfolio Manager, DHRC) and Salma Dean (Peer’s staff)

Catalyst for Change
Runner-up: Polly Meeks (Inquiry Manager, International Development Committee, DCCS)
Winner: Catherine Tyack (Joint Clerk, Public Administration Select Committee, DCCS)

Most Improved in Access and Inclusion
Runner-up: Dane Smith (Visits Officer, Parliamentary Education Service, DIS)
Winner: Tony Williams (House of Commons Information Office, DIS)

Inspiring Role Model
Runner-up: Tom Goldsmith (Head of the Office of the Chief Executive, OCE)
Winner: Abiola Babalola (Senior Management Accountant, DF)

Special Recognition Award
The judges also conferred a Special Recognition Award to someone who was noted for having made a number of contributions to different areas of Parliament, including work on equality analyses across Parliament, support to individuals, and co-chairing of ParliOUT.
Winner: Jenny Radcliffe (Business Change and Project Manager, Security Arrangements Renewal Programme, Office of the Parliamentary Security Director)

 The only catalyst for any change that Guido can see here, is towards a new speaker. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH: Reeves Ruling Contradicts Erskine May

The Speaker’s ruling on Rachel Reeves today was a friendly gesture to the Labour front bench.

Bercow said that while Government Ministers were under an obligation not to mislead the Commons, the Opposition wasn’t so constrained. It was up to them, individually to take responsibility for what they say in Parliament. It wasn’t, however, a matter of “order”.

It’s not what Erskine May says.

Under the heading “Members deliberately misleading the House” the good book says: “The Commons may treat the making of a deliberately misleading statement as a contempt.”

That sounds like a matter of order.

And had one of the Speaker’s betes noires in the last Parliament lied like a flat fish to the House, you can bet he would have descended on them like a collapsing house.

WATCH: Bercow Denies He is “Preoccupied” By Guido

Referring to the tape published by Guido this morning disproving Rachel Reeves’ claim not to have said she wants “all benefits” to be “universal”, Tory MP Mark Harper has raised a Point of Order accusing her of misleading the House. The Speaker responded by trying to have a little dig at Guido, which then spectacularly backfired:

JB: “I am bound to say for my own part that I don’t spend any time browsing on websites, it’s not something with which I am in any way preoccupied…”

Tory MP heckles from sedentary position: “Very wise…”

HUGE LAUGHS FROM TORY BENCHES

JB: “It probably is very wise. Such matters are of no interest to me, but I am grateful to the Honourable Gentleman and I note his nocturnal habits.”

The truth betrayed by the narrowing of his eyes and the forced laugh. Guido is glad to hear Speaker Watch is hurting…

UPDATE: Guido understands the Tory heckler in question was Michael Ellis.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Speaker Watch: Bercow Plays Ball With Bryant

Chris Bryant has the sixth question at PMQs. Phone-hacking has been of some mild interest to him over the years and he gets on famously with Dave. However, Coulson’s trial continues over at the Old Bailey and the judge got very cross yesterday at politicians talking publicly about the partial verdict. As did Coulson’s Scottish lawyers…

Unsurprisingly, Mr Speaker has been accommodating to Labour and will allow Ed and Chris their big moment:

Let the butchery begin.


Seen Elsewhere

Small State Keynesians, Anti-Corporate Hayekians? | Chris Dillow
Ruffley Shows Why We Need a Proper Recall Bill Now | Alex Wickham
How is Miliband’s ‘New Politics’ Working Out? | Speccie
State Should Send More Poor Children Private | Sam Bowman
£1 Million Cost of Ed Balls’ Ego | Laura Perrins
William Hague’s Sausage Fest | Rochdale Online
Public Doesn’t Prioritise Housing | Mark Pack
Mysterious Case of Ruffley’s Missing Letter | Speccie
All the Single Ladies (And Lords) | Bloomberg
How Ruffley’s Resignation Became Inevitable | ConservativeHome
We Need a Recall Bill Now | Speccie


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Damian McBride writes in the epilogue to his memoir…

“At the time of writing, nine months from the election, I’ve concluded that Labour currently has no positive messages to communicate to anyone about why they should vote for the party, no policies which will persuade them, and is being run in a totally dysfunctional way.”



Rob Wilson says:

Without Predujice

Darling

What time will dinner be ready this evening?

Yours

Rob Wilson MP

In the interests of me I am placing a copy of this email in the public domain.


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