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.

Cam’s Constitutional Trolling: Peerage for Speaker’s Nemesis

Much amusement among Speaker watchers…

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Speaker Greatly Weakened By Loss of ‘Key Enforcer’

Intriguingly, the now sacked Speaker’s spokesman Justine McGuinness was the only other person who was present at every meeting regarding the abortive appointment of a new Clerk of the Commons.

She’s described by parliamentary sources as “a key internal enforcer” for the Speaker.

He’s thrown his right-hand woman to the wolves.

UPDATE: The Tories have asked the Speaker to donate McGuinness’ payoff to charity:

Tories Demand Investigation Into Speaker’s Spokesperson
Bercow Spinner Accused of “Serious Breach” of Impartiality

The Tories are very angry about the Speaker’s official spokesperson going native and accusing them of “aim[ing] to buy the election”, a story followed up by the Mail and the Times this morning. Guido understands Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi has written to John Bercow accusing Justine McGuinness of “a serious breach of the guidance on Speaker’s impartiality.” Zahawi demands that an investigation is carried out by “one of your deputies” because of Bercow’s “close working relationship with Ms McGuinness”, so that “full confidence and transparency and upholding the integrity of your esteemed office” can been guaranteed. As Zahawi writes:

“The guidance on Speakers impartiality is clear: “The Speaker must be above party political controversy and must be seen to be completely impartial in all public matters. All sides in the House rely on the Speaker’s disinterest, and understand that he or she must stand aside from controversy.””

He concludes: “I’m sure you will agree with me Ms McGuinness’ actions constitute a serious breach of impartiality and must be urgently investigated.” Perhaps Eleanor Laing could take a look. As someone once said, when the spokesperson needs a spokesperson…

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Speaker’s Spokesperson: “Tories Will Aim to Buy the Election”
Bercow’s Spinner Abandons Impartiality in Extraordinary Rant

Justine McGuinness is the official spokesperson to the Speaker of the House of Commons and a key member of Speaker’s Office, which is bound by strict impartiality rules dictating: “The Speaker must be above party political controversy and must be seen to be completely impartial in all public matters”. Today McGuinness addressed LibDem conference, waiving her impartiality with an extraordinary attack on the Tories, Labour and UKIP:

“The Tories will aim to buy the election with the millions of pounds donated to them by their hot money hedge fund friends. Labour will seek to steal the election, relying on an electoral system so biased in their favour that 35% of the vote could deliver them 55% of seats. UKIP will try and hijack the election by turning it into an argument about Europe and immigration as Nigel Farage swans around suburbia selling himself as some sort of suburban saloon bar Socrates.”

She was a LibDem candidate in 2005. This is going to kick up a big fuss…

Monday, October 6, 2014

WATCH: Bercow Insists He’s Not Shortest Speaker Ever

Bercow has been to Australia to speak to a half-empty room about democracy in the digital age. As Guido revealed in yesterday’s Sun column, he began his speech with a reference to “one quite sensitive matter which even as straight-talking Australians I hazard a guess your natural courtesy will disincline you to raise with me directly… that is the sensitive matter of… height.”

“It has been bruted in some of the more down-market parts of the British press that I am the shortest man ever to be Speaker… In the fairly confident expectation that there are some people who like me are vertically challenged in this audience, I say very, very explicitly, there’s nothing wrong with being short. We short people should stick together. We may be short but we may also be judged to be perfectly formed. In any case, facts are facts. I am short. I am 51 years old and remain short, and given the known impact of the ageing process upon physiognomy, the overwhelming likelihood is that I will become inexorably and irrevocably shorter still.”

Bercow went on to tell his antipodean audience that he is not the shortest Speaker ever, that particular achievement went to Sir John Bussy – Commons Speaker in 1399 – though only because he was beheaded by Henry IV. He concluded “whatever else happens to me, I am not likely to lose my head”. Watch til the end for the Speaker’s friendly acknowledgement of one audience member, a certain Carol Mills…

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Jet-Setting Bercow Heads Down Under After Iraq Debate

The recall of parliament tomorrow will have disrupted the Speaker’s preparations for a lecture he is to deliver about democracy next week, in Australia. The Times Diary yesterday quoted Bercow’s spokesperson as all but confirming he would be meeting one Carol Mills on his jolly:

“He has a very tight schedule and not a lot of spare time. But Canberra is not a big place and it would be unlikely for him not to bump into her.”

To be a fly on the wall during that conversation…

Monday, September 22, 2014

Has the ‘Canberra Caterer’ Conceded the Clerk Fight?

It looks like Carol Mills, John Bercow’s one time favoured candidate to become the new Clerk of the Commons, has all but given up on coming the next Clerk of the House of Commons. According to the Canberra Times, Mills is sticking to what she knows best: retail.

Mills wants to launch a retail revolution up on Capital Hill, and the Parliamentary Services boss says Canberra district food, wine and crafts producers will be her foot soldiers. Ms Mills says Parliament House’s underperforming gift shop needs to be more than just a place to buy a Julia Gillard mug and the outlet should be showcasing some of the best things the ACT and region has to offer. Cash-strapped parliamentary authorities are coy about the exact figures, but say they are determined that the shop, which is understood to be barely breaking even, must pay its way.

Ms Mills told The Canberra Times that her new commercial strategy hinges on making the shop a place that reflects a trip to Canberra, not just a one-hour tour of the nation’s Parliament. “We’ve had quite a big emphasis on identifying and working with local artists and local producers, so quite a lot of their material is now exclusive to the store,” she said.”Product-wise, we’ve looked at ways where we can partner with GlassWorks and other local producers.

“We’ve also got local chocolates, local wine that promotes local wineries, I’ve been meeting with Crafts ACT to talk about how we can commission local artist to produce products for the shop.” Now that that Ms Mills’s big move to Westminster to take over the running of the British Houses of Parliament looks like it is on hold, she says she is determined to turn the Australian Parliament’s shop into a more rounded experience for visitors.

Guido would have thought she would be spending her time prepping up on our ancient parliamentary conventions and constitutional quirks if she was still planning on coming… 

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 Watch: Bercow Stitch Up Faces Committee Scrutiny

John Bercow’s clerk stitch up will face the scrutiny of a committee of MPs after the House last night passed Jesse Norman’s motion to examine the probity of the appointment. The battle lines were drawn in the debate chaired by Lindsay Hoyle: Labour’s Margaret Hodge and Gisela Stuart defended the Speaker from being subjected to “unwarranted and plain wrong” accountability, Hodge insisting “the panel thought that Carol Mills was the only candidate who was appointable to the job”. A claim directly contradicted by Andrew Lansley, who said they found several suitable names. Perhaps Hodge will be called before the committee to explain her mistake.

George Young also urged Mills to withdraw, while William Hague was absent with a belly ache. Jack Straw will chair the committee, reporting back to MPs next year. A very modest pause indeed…


Seen Elsewhere

Osborne’s Daycare Obsession is a Time Bomb | Kathy Gyngell
BBC Marr Pinko Trying to Ban the Queen | Speccie
Eric Hobsbawm: Companion of Dishonour | Standpoint
Guido Party Gossip | Iain Dale
Russell Brand Comes Out as 9/11 Truther | Guardian
Health Revolution is Underway | Fraser Nelson
UKIP Gets Professional | Red Box
Kelly Tolhurst Wins Rochester Open Primary | BBC
No.10 Ambushed by EU Prosperity Tax | Times
10 Years of Guido | Iain Dale
Tory MP Tells Leftie Jon Snow to Retire | Guardian


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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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