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…

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…

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… 

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?

Speaker’s Authority, Competence and Integrity Challenged

Last night, an advance in the Carol Mills story.

The House voted to set up a committee to consider the Governance of the House, including the role of the Clerk and chief executive.

Who thought procedure could be so exciting?

This is a decisive step forward. The remit is wider than expected. It allows, in theory, the source of yesterday’s Bully Bercow story to be called to give evidence.

“Governance of the House” includes control of the Speaker. When the Speaker is out of control, who controls him? That’s the essence of governance.

The Speaker’s bullying, abusive behaviour is within the remit of the committee. Allegations of committee-rigging, running candidates, planting questions, fixing appointments are all within the remit. How the dickens did he let that get through?

John Bercow will be pushing his candidates onto that committee as if his life depended on it (which it may do).

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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…

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.

Continue reading

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.

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Bercow at Bay

On Monday, the Speaker was promising to “solicit views in detail” from Members about his controversial selection of Carol Mills as Clerk of the House. “People can express their views on the floor of the House,” he said. “I want […]

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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 […]

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House Turns on Speaker: Live Reaction

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Bercow Braced for Post-PMQs Showdown

All eyes on the Speaker at today’s back to school PMQs. Yesterday Bercow scarpered before Michael Fabricant could give him a grilling and this morning he is spinning hard in the FT about how Clerk stitch up of the Clerk […]

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