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…

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH: Bercow’s Panel Turns on Him

An answer from John Thurso to Michael Fabricant’s written parliamentary question has been made.

Fabricant asked whether the selection panel had been aware of the Australian Senate’s investigations into Carol Mills, and if so, at what stage they had been informed.

Thurso replied: “the panel was not made aware of the investigations before reaching its conclusion.”

Saxton Bampfylde, the head hunters knew. The Speaker must have known. The selection panel did not.

The Speaker, determined for reasons unknown to place Carol Mills in the job, must have withheld the most salient piece of information. All the evidence suggests he prevailed on the panel not to ask Saxton Bampfylde into the room in order that they should not find out about the Inquiries.

The panel has been carrying the can for John Bercow’s machinations.

They are starting to decide they needn’t carry it indefinitely.

(more…)

Exclusive: Former Employee Accuses Speaker of Violent Rages
Will Testify: Rages Were Extraordinary, I Was Hit, Sworn At

BERCOW-HIT-STAFF

A former employee of John Bercow claims today that he was the victim of violent rages at the hands of the Speaker, in a series of extraordinary allegations about the Speaker’s conduct. Speaking to Guido, the respected senior former staff member in Bercow’s office said:

“If I was asked was I ever hit? I’d say yes.

If I was hit by bits of a mobile phone he smashed in one if his rages? Yes.

Did I witness him telling untruths to accuse people of wrongful behaviour? Yes.

Was I sworn at? Very regularly.

I witnessed catastrophic losses of temper. The rages were extraordinary. Arms flailing. The loss of control.”

Would this person go on the record at a select committee?

Yes.

(more…)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Gallery Guido: Will Bercow Chair Debate on His Own Conduct?


And that’s the end of the matter, the Speaker told the House. “Til Monday!” Michael Fabricant cheerfully called out.

Clerkgate has a long way to go yet.

William Hague, the new Leader of the House answered Simon Burns’ question about the status of the Mills appointment letter. He revealed that the Speaker had written to Downing St earlier in the week to ask for a further delay.

The Speaker didn’t quite conceal his feelings that his private correspondence was being aired like this.

Because it’s not what he told Burns yesterday “with crystal clarity”. He had said instead that it wasn’t for him to withdraw the letter.

His legalistic wriggling is such that the House is entitled to question everything he says.

(more…)

SPEAKER WATCH: Split the Role of the Speaker

In the FT yesterday, the Speaker developed his project to paint the outgoing Clerk Robert Rogers as a dusty old reactionary with his nose in Erskine May and wholly unsuited to managing £240m worth of public money. Therefore, his argument goes, the managerial functions of the Clerk should be taken away and given to a professional.

The Clerk’s management record will doubtless come out in the Back Bench debate but there’s no question Sir Robert put a lot of runs on the board, even for those modern teams of Inclusion and Diversity.

By contrast, the Speaker himself has never managed anything.

His staff turnover has been high, and at least one ex-employee, it is said, took six months off recovering from post-traumatic stress. His Public Engagement committee was ridiculous (see Guido passim). He is by many accounts an intrusive, mercurial, politically-driven meddler in every aspect of Palace life.

The one project we know he has managed – the appointment of a new Clerk – has been so spectacularly badly-done it may result in two or three law suits, a seven-figure compensation claim, and a complete re-run of the process from the beginning.

So, experience tells us that it isn’t the Clerk’s role that should be split but the Speaker’s. He should remain as the guarantor of parliamentary process, privilege and probity but all his management functions should be passed over forthwith to an existing in-house official who knows what he or she is doing.

A foul-mouthed bully with a penchant for megalomania and who contravenes all seven Nolan Principles of Public Life is not the model of a modern manager.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH:  It’s a Question of Survival Now

How he used to suck at the udders of the House when it came to points of order. After taking half a dozen Bercow would coax, nibble, squeeze another lot out. “Any more? Anyone? Just a little one? Who’s got something for me?”

What a difference from today.

Michael Fabricant rattled his teeth with two questions. Why were recruiters Saxton Bampfylde prevented from telling the panel that Carol Mills was under two separate Inquiries in the Australian Senate? And was it the case that Carol Mills wasn’t even originally recommended by these head hunters?

The Speaker had begun the week emolliently promising a full, frank and friendly examination of all these questions. He almost snarled that Fabricant was “unfortunately but predictably wrong on both counts,” then blustered into an ad hominem attack on him for not having been in the chamber on Monday or if he had been he hadn’t asked a question but there it was and it was now time to move on.

In other words, “I am guilty as charged and if I don’t keep moving they’ll have the cuffs on me.”

Chris Pincher got even shorter shrift. He quoted an Andrew Sparrow report of “sources close to you” disparaging clerks, and…

He was shut up, told to sit down and – insultingly, some might think – told to “rise to the level of events.”

He is the rudest Speaker the House has ever had. And I speak as a connoisseur of rudeness. Bercow is in a class of his own.

(more…)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH: Bercow Kneels Before the House

Leonard Cohen on his bankruptcy tour sang whole concerts on one knee, hand extended to the audience. He really needed the money.

So it was with John Bercow yesterday evening. He knelt. He extended his palm to the Commons. “I am in the hands of and ready to be guided by the House.” He really needed the support.

How well he plays that great organ of democracy!

“My responsibility is to hear and heed them,” he said of its members.

They just didn’t have the heart to give the kneeling supplicant a jolly good beating.

That will happen – and it is still more likely to happen than not – today, the day after and next week.

It is still more likely than not he will lose the Speakership.

Jesse Norman asked gently whether he was going to withdraw the letter of appointment. He was told, “It isn’t for me to withdraw a letter but for the panel.”

Is it? Is it for the Panel? Wasn’t the Panel’s function to advise the Speaker? Whose name was on the letter of recommendation – the Panel’s or the Speaker’s?

(more…)


Seen Elsewhere

Sunday Mirror Should Be Applauded | Sandi Dunn
Hancock in “Labour is Full of Queers” Blunder | Scrapbook
In Farageland | London Review of Books
What About the Mums? | Kathy Gyngell
Tories Send Cameron Clear Message Re Gove | Speccie
Lets Hear it for Theresa May | Allison Pearson
Dave Takes Advantage of Economic Trust | Jonathan Freedland
Cameron’s Kitchen Sink Manifesto | Tim Montgomerie
Dave Promises £7 Billion Tax Cuts | Times
At Last, a Real Tory PM | Mail
Cameron Trades Votes for Economic Credibility | FT


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David Cameron on political promiscuity…

“On May 7 you could go to bed with Nigel Farage and wake up with Ed Miliband. Not one bit of that works for me.”



cynic says:

Can anyone help me? I went on holiday a week ago and returned to find someone has pulled out the stake and Gordon Brown is back and acting as Prime Minister. What did I miss? Has there been a snap election?


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