Friday, August 29, 2014

Bercow Backtracking Fast: Showdown Coming, Monday

Later Gallery Guido will predict what the Speaker will say, the attitude he will take, the apology he will deploy, the blocking technique he will use, and the Points of Order storm that will follow (under the general heading Not So Fast, Mate).

John Bercow fighting for his position will be a most  impressive experience for all concerned, and the parliamentary event of the year.

Quentin Letts also has more:

Respected backbenchers Jesse Norman (Con) and Natascha Engel (Lab) have assembled an impressive force of parliamentary supporters for a move to debate the appointment of Carol Mills in the House. If that happens, Mr Bercow may have to resign.

Bercow is in a hole. Although there is no shortage of personal opprobrium for him — he is the most uncongenial of men — this rumpus is about principle. Who runs the Commons: its Members or their biased Speaker? And that, surely, is a matter for us all. It is our Parliament, not his. It is now embarrassingly obvious that he fixed the committee that selected Ms Mills and that he did so with the assistance of the Shadow Leader of the Commons, Angela Eagle, and the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge.

Monday is going to be fun.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Gallery Guido:This is Not the First Job Bercow Has Stitched Up

Will a pre-appointment hearing for Carol Mills examine the murky appointment process run by the Speaker?

Investigators will be interested how the Speaker got what he wanted in the appointment of his Chaplain in 2010.

An eye-witness to the events spoke to Guido today and disclosed the following.

A Speaker has no formal role in the selection of the Speaker’s Chaplain, it is a Church appointment with two roles – one in the Commons, the other across the road in the Abbey.

John Bercow insisted that half the short list of six be female. He pre-determined the winning candidate would be female. “A female is going to do that job. It has to be a female,” he is quoted as saying.

Although he had no right, he insisted on speaking to all the candidates himself.

He rang up the selection board and lobbied them.

He continued to operate in the general election period when he had no official standing as an MP.

(more…)

Gallery Guido: What Was Margaret Hodge Thinking?

Considering Margaret Hodge’s titles – Protector of the Public Purse, Scourge of the Quangocracy, Chair of the Public Accounts committee – you have to wonder what she was doing agreeing to Carol Mills’ appointment.

As Guido reported, Carol Mills’ delinquencies and profligacies would have earned her the withering criticism of Hodge’s PAC.

Every Parliament, Mills replaced the entire Australian parliamentary crockery stock at a cost of $80,000.

She couldn’t cut $400,000 out of the pool and gym budget so she took it out of security.

She refurbished her office at a cost of $1m.

She presided over criminal misappropriations without informing the police.

But these are mere hors d’ouevres prior to the 500-course feast that the Senate inquiry into her department will serve up when it gets underway.

Who Ms Mills’ referees were, and whether Mrs Hodge gave them due diligence is something that will doubtless emerge as events grind them out. Saxton Bampfylde (sic) the head hunters will also need to explain how they weren’t to blame for anything.

But finally – and most obvious of all, to someone of Hodge’s experience, Ms Mills discourse gives her away. She talks in the obscene Esperanto that international bureaucrats use to bamboozle politicians

” . . . we established a fostering inclusion and respect framework to guide the implementation of measures to promote ethical behaviour across all levels of DPS.”

Hodge on committee would insist on that sort of rubbish being translated into English.

So what was she up to?

If anyone could be counted on to vote against an Old Etonian, it would have been the former leader of Islington Council at its institutional looniest.

Guido suspects that would have been her primary qualification for what Bercow wanted.

Remember, Bercow’s main purpose in this comically unprofessional fiasco was to diminish the standing of the Clerk, to eliminate other interpretations of parliamentary procedure. That way he’d enjoy ever-greater freedom for his princely rule.

That power-mania is what underlies the whole shambles.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Everything You Need to Know About the Bercow Row
Leaked Memo From Speaker’s Opponents Explains All

Been away? Well this memo prepared by the cross-party alliance who have hamstrung the Speaker – tells you everything you need to know about the row over who will be the new Clerk of the House of Commons and whether the job will be split:

Bercow will face scrutiny about what looks remarkably like dirty tricks in his attempt to install his preferred external candidate into the role:

“The internal candidates were given less notice of the presentation required and of its subject than the external candidates (the former on the Monday before interview, the latter the previous Friday). The external candidates were offered a briefing meeting with the Speaker as Chair of the Board; the Clerk candidates were not. Some of the questioning appears not to have accorded with best practice. It is also reported that the Speaker gave the panel the benefit of his personal views of the Clerk candidates. All this may be explored in Tribunal proceedings.”

Just ten days after twisting arms on the selection panel, he has backed down and realised just how much trouble he is in. It would appear he greatly underestimated his opponents…

Gallery Guido: Disaster Strikes Retreating Speaker

The retreating Speaker is now offering to split Robert Rogers’ role (which he always wanted) but have the new administrative position answer to the Clerk (which he never wanted).

This is a disaster for John Bercow – to save his job he has significantly strengthened the Clerk and created an alternative power base backstage.

But this isn’t the end, or even the beginning of the end.

The current legal and procedural shambles is the end of the beginning.

Carol Mills will be doing half the job at twice the salary. At the moment she still has the grace and favour grandeur of 3 Parliament St.

This is clearly untenable.

The process needs to start again.

Without the need for procedural knowledge a multitude of candidates will present themselves for one of the most prestigious jobs in the public service.

Carol Mills’ employment lawyer is going to make a fortune.

Bercow Blinks

In the middle of the August recess, Bercow quietly slipped the name of his preferred choice of Common’s Clerk to No 10 for them to send to the Palace. As the BBC reported on 19 August:

“Speaker John Bercow’s choice to take over as Parliament’s most senior official is almost certain to get the job…

…a spokesman for House of Commons leader William Hague said it would be “pretty extraordinary” if Downing Street were to reject the panel’s chosen candidate.

A source close to Mr Bercow called the recruitment process, which included two interviews, “fair and transparent”.”

After sitting on it for 9 days, Downing Street have now made clear they are not happy. Bercow has woken up to the crisis, despite still standing by his choice for Clerk late last week. A source tells the Times Red Box:

“He realises there are big problems here and he does not want to do something to which the House is opposed. As far as we know he wants to be re-elected as Speaker in 2015. And neither would John want to embarrass the Queen.”

Bercow is now signalling he would be happy to look again at splitting the role – something opposed by Tory backbenchers, but the current Clerk has fired a missile at that idea too. Again the BBC:

“Sir Robert Rogers – the most senior official in the House of Commons – says a suggestion his role could be split to create two posts of equal seniority is the ‘wrong answer’. Adding ‘the buck must stop somewhere, and it needs to stop with the official who is responsible to the House, not to a Chief Executive responsible to the Speaker and the House of Commons Commission’.”

Bercow has blinked, but this will rumble on yet. Either way, is it not about time the ‘listening speaker’ consulted those  he was elected to serve – the MPs.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Almost 10% of MPs Already Backing Stop Mills Motion
Major Shift From No.10 on Bercow’s Appointment

According to sources close to Jesse Norman’s tally sheet, more than 50 MPs from across the House are backing plan to delay the appointment of Carol Mills and set up a proper pre-appointment hearing – currently 8% of all MPs. The Speccie have the wording of said motion:

‘That this House believes that the recommendation of Ms Carol Mills to be Clerk of this House should be subject to, and contingent upon, a pre-appointment hearing and report by a select committee.’

Sources have let it be known to Guido that this is no old guard operation:

“It’s not the usual suspects but very much younger Members, new Members, Modernisers, etc. And the numbers are building steadily despite the issues of reaching people during recess/Bank Holiday etc. We’ve had people calling in from their holidays to add their names. There is real concern and anger about this. So there’s a head of steam building strongly for the Commons to have its say.”

There is no cross party support for Mills, and No. 10 have woken up to this.

A significant moment in this row.

‘Canberra Caterer’ Missed Catering Scandal on Her Watch
Expensive Scandals on CV of Potential Commons Chief Exec

The limited defenders of Carol Mills, who go under the name ‘friends of Bercow’ in the press, point to her experience running the Department for Parliamentary Services of the Australian parliament, as well as the enormity of the ‘Chief Executive’ role of the Common’s clerk – who essentially runs the parliamentary estate. Leaving aside allegations of spying on both politicians and hacks alike, apparently Mills would make an excellent Chief Executive if the role was split. Yet, does her track record really back up that claim?

In February of this year Mills was forced to admit that the DPS had missed an ongoing catering fraud. She told a Senate hearing it “was likely” that “inappropriate practice” had been going on for two years through a $550,000-a-year contract. It was found that W Catering had been using parliamentary facilities to cater for other events they were running, outside of parliament. There was political consternation over the fact that instead of calling in the cops, Mills took the decision to bring in “an external organisation look at all the material that I could find in terms of the accounts, the proceedings, etc.” At a cost to the taxpayer, natch.

Nor was this the first time that Mills had reached for the expensive outside consultants instead of dealing with matters through traditional internal channels and the law. Back in 2012, after a major security breach on her watch that saw an intruder enter the Parliament and get within touching distance of the Aussie PM, Mills shifted the blame by commissioning a $30,000 report by an external bureaucrat. Again, it turned out to be a matter for the police to deal with, but not before the money was wasted. 

Missed fraud scandals and security breaches don’t look great on Mills’ CV, but how she ultimately dealt with these problems – expensively – will really irritate MPs. Lots to discuss at a pre-selection hearing…

Monday, August 25, 2014

Gallery Guido: The Bercow Remedy

The House feels it is being bounced into accepting a split role of Clerk and chief executive. MPs are complaining.

They feel that the split, if desirable, needs thought.

Whether the chief executive should answer to the Clerk of the House or to the Speaker is one important consideration.

The remedy is in their hands.

If the Backbench Business committee grants a debate with a votable Motion – and the Motion is carried – then the decision will be implemented forthwith. It is House business.

The Motion would say something along the lines of . . . A pre-appointment process should enquire into the splitting of the roles of Clerk and chief executive of the Commons in the first place and only once that principle has been established should the candidacy of Carol Mills for Clerk and chief executive be subject to a pre-appointment hearing with the power to reject her.

It needs a clerk to write the Motion, obviously. Someone who knows what they are doing.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Charges Against Bercow Puppet More Serious Than Reported
Facing Possible Six Months Imprisonment for Contempt

“She may not be much of a clerk, as she knows nothing about procedure, but I’m happy to accept the panel’s assessment that she’s a first rate chief executive.”

That’s what generous people say about the clerical candidate Carol Mills.

But what evidence is there that she is this high-calibre, fair-minded apostle of the Nolan Principles of Public Life?

An admission she made in a committee hearing in May this year caused an astonished senator to call for, and to be granted, an emergency debate in the Senate followed by an Inquiry (yet to report).

President of the Senate John Hogg described Ms Mills’ admission as “a very serious matter”, saying:

“It is fundamental to the law of parliamentary privilege that any act that has the effect or tendency of constituting improper interference with the free performance by a senator of the senator’s duties as a senator may be treated as a contempt.”

The maximum sentence for contempt includes six months in jail.

Carol Mills took over Canberra’s dysfunctional Department of Parliamentary Services in 2012. Whistleblowers were still releasing information to Senator Faulkner two years later.

Ms Mills’ management response had a dash of Stasi in it: she monitored the comings and goings of the senator’s office by the use of CCTV.

Second, and separately, there is an inquiry – unanimously agreed and sponsored by all parties and Independents in the Senate – into the performance of Ms Mills’ DPS.

This is not a routine appraisal.

The terms of reference are very wide-ranging and will scrutinise every level of this riven department – still considered by some to be the worst-administered department in the Commonwealth, even after two years of Ms Mills ‘ world-class leadership.

Guido repeats the question asked before. Was the panel of selection informed of these inquiries? Was the seriousness of the charges revealed?   And if so, what was the panel thinking?

The Clerk is the highest guarantor of parliamentary privilege – they had sitting in front of them someone being investigated for breaching it.

Were they told? And if not , why not?

UPDATE: Looks like we will be getting some movement:

Meanwhile government sentiment seems to be hardening: “Discontent rising,” says one source. “Consulting parliament was supposed to be his USP in the role, after all.”


Seen Elsewhere

BBC: It Was Guido Wot Won It | MediaGuido
Nick Robinson’s Britain First Selfie | Metro
Dyson: Leave German Dominated EU, Join EFTA |
How UKIP Won Rochester | Seb Payne
Labour’s Islington Problem | Harry Phibbs
Ed Lost More Than a By-Election | Labour Uncut
Labour the Biggest Losers in Rochester | Speccie
Thornberry a Gift to Farage | Nick Wood
Is Left Finally Turning Against EU? | Dan Hannan
Labour Votes Going Green | Guardian
UKIP Winning Class War | Tim Stanley


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Ralph Miliband on the English…

“The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world.”



Left on Left says:

The lefties are attacking because the panellist is a millionaire and lives in a London home worth upwards of two million. Someone had best tell them he’s called Ed Miliband.


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