SKETCH: Bercow Does Bashful

The Speaker made his statement (of course). There was barking throughout. Never has a Speaker’s statement been heckled. Scoffing, scornful laughter on “A number of colleagues expressed disquiet.”

He said as little as possible, played it straight, modestly, firmly, with a self-deprecation mild enough to sound plausible. “My preference did not meet with sufficient support,” he said to explain why the combined post was advertised.

The management challenge was larger than it ever has been. The move out of the building and the refurbishment of the buildings was, he implied, beyond the capacity of clerks.

So, the panel chose the candidate to be both chief adviser to parliament and chief executive.

As to separating the roles “Any change would require the consent of the House.”

On the pre-appointment hearing he says he wants to hear views.

He is offering “a modest pause in the recruitment process while views are solicited in detail.”

This is the first stage of what he hopes will be an orderly retreat.

Continue reading

Bercow Clerk Statement: Full Text

Bercow has given way and delayed the Mills appointment:

“Order! Order! I wish to make a statement concerning the clerk and chief executive of the house. Currently these two roles are combined in a single post, despite their very different nature. Over the years, Parliament’s affairs have become more complex, its budget has risen and decisions such as on a potential refurbishment of the House have become unavoidable.

Thus highly skilled management is now vital as much as expertise in procedure.

My preference for separating the two aspects of the Post did not meet with sufficient support before the recruitment process and in consequence the combined position of Clark and chief executive was openly advertised.

A range of candidates were considered by an interview panel consisting of five honourable members and a lay member, Dame Julie Mellor.  

[Interruption “no deputy speaker!”]

Two rounds of interviews were conducted and at each stage the panel source to select one person who could meet the demanding twin roles both of procedural adviser to the house and of its chief executive officer. The panel reached its decision on July 30, however a number of colleagues have since expressed disquiet…

[Interruption: “HA!”]

…their concerns fall into two categories. The first, helpfully raised by the honourable member for Rutland and Melton, is whether the panel should have recommended separating the roles. I was advised that the panel could not adopt this approach without prior legislation.

As I have said, there is a compelling case for such a separation but any change would, of course, require the support of the House.

The second concern is for free appointment scrutiny and was initially put forward by the honourable member for North East Somerset. A strong case can be made for it and on this point also I wish to hear colleagues’s views. In the circumstances, and having discussed the matter with the leader and shadow leader of the House, I believe that a modest pause in the recruitment process is desirable while such issues are explored and the views of members solicited in detail. In the meantime, the functions of the clerk and chief executive will be distributed between members of the management board. I am sure the whole House will wish them well in the discharge of these important duties while the matter is resolved with good will and by consensus.”

Vid via @liarpoliticians.

UPDATE:

Bercow Statement: Will He or Won't He?

If he does not make a statement, Bercow might as well just say ‘I resign’.

12:26pm:

He can run but he can’t hide…

2:12pm:

This is being handled about as well as the Clerk job process itself…

 

Gallery Guido: Bercow Sticking to His Line

The Speaker’s position is deteriorating fast. Reports say he is sticking to his line that the recruitment process was fair, modern and followed best practice. “Previously, the outgoing Clerks handed in a piece of paper with three names on it,” as he says. Leave aside the fact that his process has created an unprecedented shambles. He now has to avoid lying to the House.

For either Saxton Bampfylde are the most incompetent head hunters in the history of head hunting or John Bercow refused to pass on their warnings about Ms Mills’ comic lack of suitability.

For, what was Ms Mills doing on the long list at all? Saxton Bampfylde, charged with finding a new Commons Clerk presents a facilities manager presiding over “the worst-run department in the Commonwealth” according to one Australian Senator, a manager with no procedural knowledge, and with two separate Inquiries against her. “Just the ticket!” they think, and put her up for consideration. Really? When are they going to spill the beans?

The Commons Commission is FoI-able. Whether the oddly-established Panel of Selection is – that’s a moot point. It needs a clerk to rule on that one. But what did Saxton Bampfylde tell them? Their reputation is at risk. The truth will out – and sooner rather than later.

Kick off at 2.30. Guido will be posting as report shortly after the Speaker sits down. Points of Order will be around 5pm.

Gallery Guido: The Questions Bercow Must Answer on Monday

The Speaker will stand up at 2.30 on Monday and make an announcement on the new Clerk. Because it could be the end of John Bercow’s Commons career he will make the speech of his life.

It will be a parliamentary masterpiece of apology, mild defiance, injured dignity and ostentatious consensus-seeking.

Players of Oratorical Bingo should look out for:

The timetable was dictated by the outgoing Clerk’s resignation. Process better than we had before. Advertised. Open competition. So necessary to meet the extraordinary challenges we face. All worked hard, interviewed many candidates, acted in good faith as servants of the House. I am the servant of the House. I am referring the matter back to the House in the form of the House of Commons Commission. They will report their recommendations back to the House.

Then, expect:

MP: Point of order!

Speaker: “First there are questions, then a statement by the Prime Minister. Points of order always come after the statement.” (He will want the Prime Minister first to paint a picture of global collapse, jihad, party defection, Euro-turmoil in order to make procedural points seem petty.)

MP: “But it IS after the statement. You’ve just made a statement!”

Speaker confers with Interim Clerk Natzler. Then, sensationally, “It was an announcement, not a statement.”

If MPs lose this argument, Points of Order may begin around 4.30 or 5pm, if the Speaker can drag proceedings out.

The Speaker will answer each point, some at filibustering length, some with the holding answer: “This is a matter for the House of Commons Commission. Let them do their work and report to the House.”

There are many questions outstanding. Here are some of the most important, as raised by Guido over the summer…

Continue reading

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.

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.

Continue reading

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.

Everything You Need to Know About the Bercow RowLeaked 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).

[…]

+ READ MORE +

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.[…]

+ READ MORE +

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.

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Almost 10% of MPs Already Backing Stop Mills MotionMajor 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.[…]

+ READ MORE +

'Canberra Caterer' Missed Catering Scandal on Her WatchExpensive 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.[…]

+ READ MORE +

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.[…]

+ READ MORE +

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?[…]

+ READ MORE +

The 'Canberra Caterer' Breaks Her Silence Over Spying Row


As former Labour Ministers join the outcry over Bercow’s choice of Commons Clerk, Carol Mills has told the Guardian Australia:

“I was disappointed to read an email reportedly from the clerk of the Senate, one of my peers at the Parliament of Australia, in the media.

[…]

+ READ MORE +



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David Cowling, the BBC’s head of political research, in an internal memo…

“It seems to me that the London bubble has to burst if there is to be any prospect of addressing the issues that have brought us to our current situation. There are many millions of people in the UK who do not enthuse about diversity and do not embrace metropolitan values yet do not consider themselves lesser human beings for all that. Until their values and opinions are acknowledged and respected, rather than ignored and despised, our present discord will persist. Because these discontents run very wide and very deep and the metropolitan political class, confronted by them, seems completely bewildered and at a loss about how to respond (“who are these ghastly people and where do they come from?” doesn’t really hack it). The 2016 EU referendum has witnessed the cashing in of some very bitter bankable grudges but I believe that, throughout this 2016 campaign, Europe has been the shadow not the substance.”

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