Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sally’s Pass Pal Claimed to be ‘Agent’ and ‘Miliband Adviser’
Mystery Over Farah Sasson’s Donation and Access Grows

The row over Bercow’s donation/pass mystery is escalating. Tory MP Simon Burns has weighed in:

“I do not quite see why at the request of the wife of the Speaker a friend should be given a pass to the House of Commons – in that they are not usually given to MPs’ friends. It makes it look rather difficult for the Speaker when he then receives a rather nice cheque for his election campaign – and leaves him open to criticism and questions.”

David Morris MP tells Guido this morning that Farah Sassoon introduced herself to him on the Commons Terrace as ‘an adviser to Ed Miliband’ saying she advised the Labour leader ‘on all sorts of things’. Another Tory MP, speaking on the condition of anonymity for now, says that on a separate occasion Ms Sassoon claimed to be Sally Bercow’s agent. If this is true it adds a rather unsavoury commercial angle to why she has been allowed unfettered access to Parliamentary estate. Who is this mysterious character, and to what end is she really using this pass?

Whether she’s a friend, a Labour adviser, or Sally’s agent , the line from the Speaker that this is all dandy does not hold water. Crucially, Bercow’s spokesman dodged the question of whether proper advice was sought before he accepted a donation from this mysterious business woman. Even if there is an innocent explanation, as an example to all MPs, the Speaker must be whiter than white. Yet each day brings new questions…

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bercow Fails to Explain Donor Mystery

bercowGuido’s story in the Sun on Sunday revealing John Bercow’s donation from a businesswoman to whom he gave a parliamentary pass makes the front page of this morning’s Mail. At the weekend a spokesperson for the Speaker refused to confirm Sally’s drinking pal Farah Sassoon was granted a pass. Today they admit the Bercows did give a pass to Sassoon, also confirming her company made a donation to the Speaker’s campaign for re-election:

“For security purposes, House officials do not confirm names of pass holders. However, the Speaker would like to confirm that his wife applied for a pass for a female friend in 2012. It is not unusual for residents living on the Parliamentary Estate to be able to apply for passes for close friends and family. All applications go through security clearance checks.”

Farah Sassoon made a donation to ‘the Speaker’s seeking re-election’ campaign fund on 7 June 2014 (it was accepted on 1 July 2014).

The donation was towards the Speaker’s re-election fund, not to his office. As you are aware, the convention that the Speaker is independent of party dates back to the mid-18th century. When a Member of Parliament becomes Speaker of the House she or he resigns from his or her political party and run as an independent candidate under the banner of ‘the Speaker Seeking Re-Election’. The donation is for this purpose, and is listed as being so in the Register of Members’ Interests under ‘Sponsorships’, in accordance with the rules.”

Far from explain the Speaker’s position, this statement raises further questions about the probity of the donation. Why was Sassoon given a pass? How often does Sassoon visit parliament, and for what purpose? Who does she meet there? Did Bercow consult with parliamentary authorities, such as the Clerk of the Commons, on the propriety of accepting a donation having issued this pass? Does the Speaker think accepting a donation from a woman to whom he gave unfettered access to parliament is appropriate? His reply to Rob Wilson’s letter will be one to watch out for…

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…

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mumsnet Idea Lacks Fun

The yummy-mummy lobby are throwing their prams at the toys this morning, with Mumsnet campaigning to turn our democracy into an online coffee morning. 40,000 keyboard warriors have signed a petition demanding a ban on PMQs, aka the only bit of Commons action that anyone actually watches. Tory MPs are grumbling and smell a lefty stich up. “I’m proud to be on the side of Winston Churchill,” says Tory heckler Alec Shelbrooke, “rather than with those who want to take the passion out of politics.” The Tories know exactly who this over-feminisation of politics will help: “PMQs is about proof of leadership, that’s why so many people watch it. Bercow is rescuing Miliband everytime he interrupts.” Presumably if the politicians don’t do as they’re told by the mums, they will be sent to bed with no tea.

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 11, 2014

What Has the Speaker Got Against the Kennington Tandoori?

Box office advertising for Westminster’s curry house of choice at PMQs earlier, as the Speaker interrupted the PM once again, by claiming: “when you’re eating curry in Kennington Tandoori you don’t yell across the table.” As a witness to many a rowdy night south of the river, Guido is not too sure about that. A co-conspirator writes:

“Last time I went to Kennington Tandoori I saw Bercow in there on his own.”

Maybe that’s what he has against it. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Tory MP Slams “Disgraceful, Dishonourable” Bercow

Tory MP Michael Fabricant has been tweeting about another spat he has had with the Speaker this afternoon. Guido asked him what it was all about, and here is Fabbers’ side of the story:

“After our spat in the chamber before prorogation, the Speaker called me to the chair and apologised. He said he hadn’t heard what I’d said, he had a cold. But that wasn’t my problem, he said, it was his. He said that next time I wanted to get in he’d call me early – given that I wouldn’t tweet about it.

Today, at the UQ I wanted to get in. He called me at the very end. The very last. I raised the matter of my constituents persecuted by Islamic extremists, and all the time I was speaking, Bercow was pulling faces at me.

“I went up to him afterwards. He leant away from me hoping I’d go away. ‘Mr Speaker,’ I said. ‘I thought you were going to call me early?’

‘I don’t remember saying any such thing.’

‘I don’t believe you can’t remember!’ I said.

‘You can believe what you like,’ he said.

‘Well, I think it’s disgraceful behaviour,’ I said to him. And as he’d broken the deal we’d struck I did tweet about it, to show him as the dishonourable person he is.'”

He adds:

“Bercow’s been good in bringing more power back to Parliament but he lets Parliament and himself down by his temperament, along with his behaviour both inside and outside the House. Eventually, for instance, we’ll find out why the Clerk, in good health, retired early.

It’s not just Conservatives who are becoming impatient with his erratic behaviour. I know colleagues on both sides of the House who feel enough is enough.”

Strong words…

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Speaker Watch: Bercow’s Clumsy Briefing

Odd to see the Speaker briefing against the outgoing Clerk of the House, given the treacle-drizzled eulogy he made at the time of his resignation. Steve Richards’ column in the Indy today has several passages that might have been personally dictated by the Prince of the Palace. Urgent Questions are reported to be a Bercovian innovation, greatly to his credit, shaking up the dusty processes of the House. Richards’ article also claims the applications were often resisted by the “bewigged” Clerk, using public school sporting metaphors. The wicket isn’t ready for play, sort of thing.

In the first place, the Clerk has no authority to resist the application for a UQ, the decision is the Speaker’s. More importantly, the idea of granting more frequent UQs was first proposed before the last Speaker elections, in a document detailing how the Commons’ procedures could be livened up using existing mechanisms. The author of the document? Robert Rogers, Clerk.


Seen Elsewhere

Labour Failed Those Victims | Labour Uncut
We Cannot Ignore the Race Issue Here | Dan Hodges
74 MPs Who Back Stop Mills Motion | Speccie
Milibande | Ian Birrell
The True Meaning of Political Correctness Gone Mad | Speccie
Nigel, Nigel, Nigel! | Bloomberg
Bercow Blinks | Guardian
Speaker on the Ropes | Indy
Outgoing Clerk Slams Bercow – Row Goes Very Public | BBC
Darling Was Wrong on OBR | Speccie
Climate Change Cools Off | Washington Times


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Shaun Wright’s understatement about the Rotherham child abuse scandal…

“..I could have taken more action and probably dealt with this issue better.”



Owen Jones says:

We also need Zil lanes.


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