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.

Friday, May 16, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH: The New Party in Parliament

On Wednesday, a Conservative rose on a point of order and was told points of order would follow the statement. Labour’s Hazel Blears rose on a point of order and was allowed to make it.

She declared she had nominated Julian Lewis for the imminent election, and urged people to go and vote “for what is a very important position for the future of the Defence committee.”

It is said that Ms Blears had been to see the Speaker before morning conference to arrange this point of order (which wasn’t a point of order, but a Speaker-endorsed plug for Julian Lewis).

It is now clear, even to observers outside parliament, that the Speaker runs candidates for elections and intervenes personally and powerfully in their favour.

Thus, Rosie Winterton – it is said – went into a meeting with the Speaker endorsing Keith Simpson for the chair – and came out endorsing Julian Lewis.

Labour whipped the vote – and failed to deliver the Speaker his preferred candidate (but that’s another story).

The Labour whips office whipped a vote on the Speaker’s instructions.

This is something new.

The Speaker had also backed Charles Walker for Chair of the Procedure committee.

The previous chair had recommended that the House debate the question of whether the Speaker should be re-elected by secret ballot. What chance of a Speaker-backed chair putting this report forward?

(more…)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH: Bercow Calls Fabbers a “Silly Man”

Dissent will not be tolerated. The Speaker didn’t want to take Michael Fabricant’s intervention at Welsh questions this morning, because apparently he is a “silly man”. Quite a bunfight:

Not very parliamentary…

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH: Little Prince Tightens Grip on Principality

The Speaker’s manouevres are starting to generate some resistance from the floor of the House, as we’ve recently seen in PMQs.

Now, news from the labyrinth of the Palace.

The Clerk of Clerks resigned recently (to get away from the Speaker’s abusive behaviour, observers said). And Bercow has ripped up the ad for his replacement.

The job description has been rewritten to downplay clerkly knowledge, ability, virtue – and to favour managerial skills, expenditure control, ICI-type experience and abilities.

This will make it easier for an outside professional to get onto the shortlist.

However, he or she will then be competing with others of enormous procedural knowledge.

How would a clever little Prince deal with that?

(more…)

SPEAKER WATCH: Every Little Helps

An exceptionally well-placed source whispers to Guido that the Speaker has tried, perhaps successfully, to broker a meeting between Julian Lewis with Dame Joan Ruddock to help him seek Labour support for his bid for Defence Select Committee Chairmanship. Also, Bercow called Lewis in Defence Questions yesterday, despite  him not being on the Order Paper – just as he did at last week’s PMQs. It would appear the neutral Speaker of the House is doing his utmost to help out his old chum and campaign manager.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH:  Bercow Gets His Weapon

What pervasive influence the Speaker has in the Commons, and how systematically he is extending it.

Is it proper that he chairs a debate on further increasing his own powers?

That sort of consideration is a nicety now, as fastidious as crooking one’s little finger on a teacup.

Andrew Lansley brought the proposal to the House to allow the Speaker to call four Amendments to the Queen’s Speech.

Not a move to restrict Mr Speaker from calling amendments, he said, but to give certainty. Because one reading of Standing Orders (the Speaker’s) suggested he might call unlimited amendments to the Queen’s Speech. So he is giving certainty by restricting Mr Speaker from calling amendments by increasing the number of amendments he can call.

There are times when procedural debate is a snake swallowing its own tail.

Charles Walker, chair of Procedure committee and a senior placeman in the Speaker’s party, brokered this proposal and congratulated “a certain maturity” in the Leader’s office in accepting it. He really must have got knocked about at school.

Angela Eagle described it as “a welcome Government climbdown in the face of defeat.” She welcomed it “with a little snigger”. She recalled the rebel amendment to the Queen’s Speech, signed by130 MPs, and described it as a “humiliating blow to the PM’s authority.”

It is entirely possible to agree. And to see how the extra power will allow the Speaker to organize behind the scenes further “humiliating blows to the PM’s authority”.

And with what relish will he put himself to the task.


Seen Elsewhere

The Douglas Carswell Shock | Tim Stanley
Carswell is a True Moderniser | Charles Moore
Assembling a New World Order | Henry Kissinger
India’s Modi Bypasses Mainstream Media | Index
Bercow on the Knife Edge | Quentin Letts
Welcome to Mississippi | Conservative Women
LibDems Select Hancock Replacement | Blue Guerilla
Carswell Resigning: “Moment Labour Won Election” | Labour Uncut
Why We Need Change | Douglas Carswell
The Howard Roark of Westminster | Guardian
Carswell, the Clacton Cassandra | James Ford


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We also need Zil lanes.


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