Monday, August 11, 2014

Bercow’s £1,300 MP Funeral Bill on Expenses

Guido couldn’t help but feel the taxpayer had been short-changed when he read in today’s Sun that John Bercow claimed £1,300 on expenses to go to Paul Goggins’ funeral. A worthwhile trip perhaps, but could he not have done it cheaper? Guido decided to find out.

The Speaker charged us £45 for a car from parliament to Euston station and £67.50 for the return journey the following day. A quick browse of Guido’s Uber app (other free market-supporting smartphone-friendly cheap car travel services are also available) shows we could do the journey for a tenner each way.

Bercow did much better on his train journey. He billed £239.10 for him and two staffers to get up to Manchester, the standard fare. Though when he got to Manchester, the Speaker inexplicably blew £500 on cars across the city. Since the trip was only meant to be for a church service and then the funeral, Guido struggles to see why he spent so much on taxis. We reckon we’d have spent £50 at the absolute maximum.

Finally, Bercow put himself and his staffers up at the posh Park Inn by Radisson hotel at a cost to the taxpayer of a cool £364. There are plenty of budget hotels well situated in Manchester. Guido chose the Ibis Budget, which would have given us three rooms for £96.

Bercow total: £1,290

Guido total: £405

Every little helps…

Friday, August 8, 2014

Bercow Fails to Clear Up Pass Row at Second Time of Asking

The Speaker has finally replied to Rob Wilson’s detailed questions about the probity of his pass-for-donor arrangement, and once again he is choosing his words very carefully. The question of what access Farah Sassoon has to the parliamentary estate is particularly troublesome for Bercow. He claims that “this pass has restrictions on it which are tailored to the circumstances for which the pass is required and will not activate proximity readers inside the Palace.” As anyone familiar with parliament will know, a free run from an entrance all the way through to Speaker’s House would give the passholder significant access to wider parts of the estate. 

Bercow has now had two opportunities to explain himself, and still he has failed to do so. If Farah Sassoon has no commercial relationship with Sally, why is she going around parliament telling MPs she does? How is it possible for her pass to only grant her access to Speaker’s House and not the wider parliamentary estate? And does he think it is appropriate to award special access to parliament to a woman who is funding his re-election campaign? His evasive answers hardly set an example fitting for the Speaker…

UPDATE: The Telegraph have yet more questions for Bercow:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Speaker’s Choice for Commons Clerk Faces Oz Spying Scandal

Carol Mills, the Speaker’s choice for the new Chief Clerk of the Commons (salary £190,000 pa), has good reason to want an escape route from her current job down under. The Australian parliament’s Department for Parliamentary Services, run by Mills, has just been placed under investigation by the authorities in Oz. Earlier this year Mills confessed that her department may have used CCTV cameras to spy on a whistleblower and a Labor senator. The report into the scandal is due early next year, by which time Mills should have settled in at Westminster…

There’s something fishy about this entire selection process. If the Speaker particularly wanted the job to go to a woman, why did female clerk Phillipa Helm not even get on the long list? Bercow may have thought she didn’t have enough experience to clerk the Commons – but then he arranged the appointment of someone who has no experience of Commons clerking at all.

How did Carol Mills surface? Was she approached directly by the Speaker? There are rumours that the outside candidates were given improper information about their chances. And how will MPs react to a foreign administrative functionary with no experience of the Commons sitting in the Clerk of Clerks chair? If this is reform, the reforming Speaker may find himself increasingly isolated.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tory MP: This Isn’t About Getting Bercow

Tory MP David Morris, who revealed that Bercow’s financial backer Farah Sassoon posed as a Labour adviser while drinking on the Commons terrace, rejects the Speaker’s paranoid accusations that this is all a mean right-wing plot to get him:

“I think he’s a marvellous Speaker and a great bloke, but I worry about why we have someone purporting to be a Labour aide roaming the estate. She told me that she advised Miliband on ‘media issues’.”

Meanwhile, Bercow is taking his time to reply to the latest series of questions about that donation and that pass. Choosing his words carefully?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Speaker Slips Into Paranoia

John Bercow has responded to increased scrutiny by briefing against his imaginary enemies to the Observer. An “ally” – in all liklihood himself or his spokesman – says he is being targeted because he is a “reforming Speaker, and some people don’t like that”, while “sources close to him” say asking for a simple explanation constitutes a “rightwing hatchet job”. He doth protest too much…

This has nothing to do with Bercow’s “reforms”, it is a simple question of why he lets a businesswoman funding his re-election campaign use parliament as a playground. The claim that his critics are all “rightwing” is patently untrue, you can read about the story in the Mirror and Tory MP Rob Wilson, who has been keeping the pressure on, is hardly a standard bearer for the right.

Bercow’s grubby mitts are all over the Telegraph today as well:

“Parliamentary passes grant the holders the right to mingle freely with ministers and MPs in Commons corridors and cafeterias, making them highly sought-after by ex-politicians who now work as lobbyists. It is understood that Mrs Sassoon’s pass does not grant her such privileges, and she can only access the wing of Palace of Westminster occupied by the Bercows.”

Officially, that may well be the case, but Sassoon has been spotted talking to ministers and MPs on the terrace on countless occasions. As Guido reported last week, she even pretended at one point to be a Labour adviser whist talking to one Tory MP and claimed to have a business relationship with Speaker’s wife to another.

What it really comes down to is that the Speaker is meant to be setting an example. The first commoner is meant to embody the rules, not wriggle above them. The example he appears happy to be setting at the moment is one where anyone can loiter around the Commons pretending to be a Labour adviser if they are your wife’s chum and they write you a cheque. So much for a ‘reforming Speaker’…

Friday, August 1, 2014

Speaker Probed on Sally Pal’s ‘Agent’ Boast

John Bercow will be delighted to have been given another chance to explain himself after he dodged questions about his pass-for-donor mystery. Rob Wilson has this afternoon also asked the Speaker to comment on why Farah Sassoon has been going around telling people she is Sally’s agent:

“I do note however, that you did not answer my final question fully and it would be helpful for you to do so. Therefore, in the interests of full transparency I ask again; who was consulted regarding the propriety of accepting a donation from someone who has been issued a pass?

I also note that there have been several more articles regarding the nature of your wife’s relationship with Ms Sassoon. Could you please confirm that she is not, as she has reported, your wife’s agent? Likewise could you confirm or deny whether there is any kind of commercial relationship between Ms Sassoon and your wife?”

At the very least, the Speaker sorted out security clearance for a woman funding his election campaign, who according to witnesses also claims to have some sort of commercial relationship with his wife. Let’s hope he can do a bit better with his answers next week…

Speaker Responds… Sort Of
Bercow Answers Raise More Pass-for-Donor Questions

John Bercow has replied to Rob Wilson’s letter, and once again the Speaker’s response raises more questions than it answers. Bercow has largely rehashed the statement his spokesperson gave to the press on Wednesday, failing to giving any explanation for why he gave a pass to a woman who is funding his re-election campaign:

Bercow says the pass only permits Sassoon access to Speaker’s House, so why is she so often seen elsewhere on the parliamentary estate, most obviously on the terrace? The Speaker admits she is security cleared, so why has he eased access to parliament for one of his donors? Bercow has as yet given no explanation. Note also that he dodges the last question – “Did you consult with any of the Parliamentary authorities” – failing to confirm whom he spoke with about the arrangement.

Crucially, the key question remains unanswered: Does the Speaker think it is appropriate to award special access to parliament to a woman who is funding his re-election campaign?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tory Secretary of State Ups Ante in Bercow Pass Row
++ Grayling: “Passes Should Not Be Given Out Lightly” ++
++ Justice Secretary Says Right That Speaker Faces Questions ++

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has weighed into the row over why John Bercow gave a parliamentary pass to a woman funding his re-election campaign. Responding to a question from Guido at his press conference this morning, Grayling warned:

“It’s certainly the case that passes to the House of Commons should not be given out lightly. They can only be given out to people who have a proper reason to be there. Any Member of Parliament, and obviously the Speaker of the House of Commons is a Member of Parliament like the rest of us, who has issued a pass to a third party, must have a good reason for doing so. And if they don’t have a good reason for doing so they will undoubtedly face questions from a great number of people as to why that is the case.”

Bercow has until tomorrow to reply to Rob Wilson’s letter, but this looks to Guido like it is heading for the Standards Commissioner…

Labour Distances Miliband From Dodgy Bercow Donor
Denial that Sassoon is “an Adviser” to Ed, Despite Her Claims

cash

A spokesman for Ed Miliband tells Guido that Ed has met Farah Sassoon on several occasions “socially”, but that she is in no way an adviser to the Labour leader, despite her claims to the contrary.

Sassoon says she does different things when she meets different people, at different times in the evening. Yet one fact is very clear…

The Labour donor and business woman has been given a pass personally by John Bercow, who now admits she is funding his re-election campaign.

That does not pass the smell test. Pun intended…

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…


Seen Elsewhere

Comply or Die at Grauniad | MediaGuido
Labour Beats UKIP in South Yorkshire | LabourList
Mock the Week’s Weak Comedy | Nigel Farage
Can Jim Murphy Save Scottish Labour? | Guardian
There is Still Appetite for the Westminster Lunch | Jon Craig
Labour Turn Their Backs on Jewish Community | Dan Hodges
Chivalry is Not Dead | Laura Perrins
Jonathan Jones is a Tw*t | Iain Dale
Second Scotland Poll Suggests Labour Wipeout | Times
Paedo Probe Boss Urged to Quit | Sun
Keynesian Tories Won’t Eliminate Deficit | Tim Montgomerie


VOTER-RECALL
Find out more about PLMR


Zac Goldsmith: “The hon. Gentleman might like to know that today’s Guido Fawkes quote of the day is the one on drug laws that we have heard cited by a number of hon. Members.”

Mike Hancock: “I am delighted to hear that Guido Fawkes is talking about something other than me.”



“Digger” Murdoch says:

Is it just me, or is Nigel Farage just a top hat and a monocle away from being a Batman villain?


Tip off Guido
Web Guido's Archives

Subscribe me to:






RSS


AddThis Feed Button
Archive


Labels
Guido Reads
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,554 other followers