Tower Hamlets Labour Council Bosses Award Themselves Vast Pay Rises

Eye-watering story from the Love Wapping website, who say they have got hold of internal documents that reveal one of the first orders of business for the new Labour council in Tower Hamlets has been to give themselves a giant pay rise costing a total of almost £400,000. These are the proposed increases to the Special Responsibility Allowances for senior Labour council figures:

How can they justify this to residents of one of the most deprived areas of London?

Corbyn-Backed Lewisham Candidate Loves Castro and Chavez

Lewisham East by-election candidate Claudia Webbe – who is backed by Corbyn’s office and the Unite and CWU unions – praised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro as a “visionary” and hailed the regime of Venezuelan tyrant Hugo Chavez. Webbe, who is Jezza’s pick in the fight for the candidacy, tweeted her “condolences on Casto’s death, despite the despot’s rule seeing widespread human rights abuses, particularly of homosexuals. Last year Webbe jointly hosted a quiz evening for the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, where she spoke alongside Len McCluskey, Richard Burgon and a representative from the Cuban Embassy. What a night

Webbe also praised Venezeulan President Hugo Chavez, whose revolution ultimately led to the collapse of the country’s economy and mass violence. Chavez is now so hated by Venezuela’s poor that last year residents of his hometown burnt down a statue of himNot hard to see why she got Jezza’s backing…

Bercow Cynically Shoring Up Labour Support

John Bercow has remarkably granted an emergency SO24 debate to Labour on money resolutions based on exact same Urgent Question he granted to Afzal Khan last week. This is highly unusual behaviour from the Speaker – it is a repeat that allows Labour to bash the government using an emergency measure for what is objectively not an urgent issue. Tory sources say it as ridiculous that Bercow would even hear the application yet alone grant an SO24 debate. That is not the only curious decision the Speaker has made recently… 

There was a very big showing on the Tory benches at Business Questions today. Bercow was faced with more questions from the government side than just about ever before. For the first time in years, he chose to cut Business Questions short.

Then there was his grandstanding during the Points of Order after PMQs yesterday. Bercow delivered a long rebuke to Chris Grayling, accusing him of an “abuse” of parliament by failing to give Labour enough warning about his statement on the East Coast Main Line. Bercow issued a direct warning to the government, referring to his nine years in the Commons and, with classic hyperbole, boasting about how they can’t “stop me”. The Labour benches loved it…

“I hope that that message is heard loudly and clearly on the Government Front Bench, at the highest level, by the people in particular by whom it needs to be heard. If I have to make the point again on future occasions, and to use the powers of the Chair to facilitate the rights of this House in other ways, no matter what flak emanates from the Executive, I will do so in the future, as I have ​always done over the past nine years, and no one and nothing will stop me doing my duty by the House of Commons.”

A pattern is emerging. Yesterday morning Guido revealed Bercow had worked with Labour and advised them on how they could use a humble address motion to attempt to force the government to release private papers on Brexit. This behaviour from the supposedly impartial Speaker left Tory MPs understandably livid.

So what is he doing? Bercow is reliant on the support of Labour MPs to keep him in his job. His position will only truly come under threat when Labour MPs decide to pull the plug. Over the last few weeks, following the bullying revelations and the emergence of Harriet Harman as a possible successor, Labour’s historic support for Bercow has come into question. It appears Bercow is now, more than ever, granting Labour spurious SO24 debates, Points of Order and even advising them on how to use arcane parliamentary procedures to whack the government, in an attempt to shore up the support he needs on the Labour benches. Why would Labour want to get rid of the Speaker if he grants them everything they ask for and uses his position in the chair to facilitate partisan attacks on the government? Bercow and Labour are undermining the impartiality of the office of Speaker to help him stay in post…

Cummings’ Contempt for Collins

Vote Leave’s campaign director Dominic Cummings has refused to appear in front of the DCMS Select Committee next week. Committee chairman Damian Collins has taken umbrage at this and says he will therefore be reporting the matter to the House, presumably to try and get him adjudged to be in contempt of parliament.

It is for the House to decide whether a contempt has been committed and, if so, what punishment should be imposed. The process for raising a complaint of breach of privilege or contempt is, according to Erskine May, as follows:

  • A Member writes to the Speaker asking for a specific matter to be given precedence.
  • The Speaker announces in the House that he has agreed that the Member may raise that specific matter, and the day on which he will give the matter precedence.
  • The Member then tables a Motion on the Order Paper for that future day, as the first item of substantive business after Questions and Statements.
  • Such Motions usually take the form of a reference to the Committee on Standards and Privileges, which reports its conclusions to the House in a published Report with any recommendations for further action. But Motions may be tabled in other terms as well and, subject to the Chair’s selection of amendments for debate and decision, may be amended by the House.

The House’s power to punish non-MPs for contempt is untested in the modern age, it would probably fall foul of human rights legislation. In theory Cummings could be summonsed to the bar of the House to be reprimanded or  imprisoned. The House of Commons last used its power to fine in 1666…

‘Beijing Barry’ Takes £43,000 from China-Linked Firm

Barry Gardiner is still pocketing tens of thousands of pounds from a law firm whose head is linked to the Chinese regime. New figures show the Shadow International Trade Secretary has accepted £43,500 from Christine Lee & Co so far this year. The latest donations are on top of £180,000 he previously accepted from the firm…

Christine Lee describes herself as a “legal adviser to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the UK” and “legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council” in China. Her son, Daniel Wilkes, works in Gardiner’s office as a parliamentary researcher. The register states Wilkes is “paid by Christine Lee & Co (solicitors) for the work I do in Parliament”…

Gardiner’s current brief concerns international trade with China. He was a vocal advocate of the Hinkley Point power station deal, which involved a Chinese state-backed firm. Both the donations and employing Christine Lee’s son are allowed under parliamentary rules. Beijing Barry, still on the make

Jared O’Mara Hosting Women’s Equality Cake & Coffee Party

Labour MP Jared O’Mara, who sang about “smashing” women “in the face”, called a constituent an “ugly bitch”, asked Girls Aloud for an “orgy”, said fat women don’t “deserve our respect”, talked about “taking your mum’s virginity” and “receiving fellatio” from Angelina Jolie, wrote about “sexy little slags” being “fingered” and told a woman “I’d lay on your rack any day”, is hosting a coffee and cake party celebrating female equality in his Sheffield Hallam constituency next month. He’s been on a journey…

Stakes Cut is Big Win for Casino Industry

The announcement this morning by Matt Hancock that stakes on gaming machines (FOBTs) in bookies’ shops are to be cut to a maximum of £2 is being spun as a victory for anti-gambling campaigners and social justice warriors from across the political spectrum – uniting IDS and Tom Watson. It is actually a victory for casinos and amusement arcade owners who lobbied hard to hobble their competitors.

One of the main lobbyists for the change was Gabino Stergides, of the trade association for the amusement and gaming machine industry, with whom Matt Hancock is pictured above. Among the other funders of the anti-gaming machines campaign were the casinos Genting, Les Ambassadeurs Club, The Palaces and the Hippodrome Casino. Carolyn Harris, the Labour MP who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on FOBT, has been wined and dined by Simon Thomas – the owner of the Hippodrome mega-casino. The whole campaign has basically been funded by the bookies’ gambling industry rivals.

The irony is that in a casino £2 is likely to be the minimum not maximum stake. You can lose much more than £100 on the spin of a roulette wheel…

Bercow Bullying Inquiry Blockers

These are the three MPs on the Commons standards committee who blocked an investigation into John Bercow’s bullying. Tories Christopher Chope and John Stevenson and Labour’s Kate Green voted to prevent the standards commissioner Kathryn Stone from launching an inquiry into the Speaker, following a complaint by Andrew Bridgen. The Times reports that a majority of the six lay members on the committee backed an investigation, but only MPs get a vote. Bridget Phillipson and Gary Streeter backed a probe but were outvoted by the three blockers above. 

This is a peak example of the problem with MPs on the standards committee marking their own homework. Bercow faces bullying allegations from multiple victims – Kate Emms, David Leakey, Angus Sinclair and Robert Rogers – the lay members say he should be investigated, and yet the politicians who have known the Speaker for years let him off the hook. Makes a mockery of parliament’s claims to be reforming how it deals with bullying…

Brexit Drama Cast List in Full

Channel 4 have today announced a new drama about the referendum starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Dominic Cummings. Guido has some suggestions for the rest of the cast…

Rimmer from Red Dwarf as Vote Leave boss Matthew Elliott. He’s already nailed the mannerisms.

Vote Leave comms chief Paul Stephenson would have to be played by Bob Odenkirk, aka Saul from Breaking Bad. “Better Call Saul” becomes “Better Call Paul”.

Surely Damian Lewis as Vote Leave spinner Rob “Roxstar” Oxley? He already has the coat and scarf.

Vote Leave’s Lee Cain and James Starkie, above right, were key players behind the scenes and are now SpAds for Boris and Gove respectively. They’d be played by Right Said Fred.

Seriously, how good is this one?

Perma-tanned Leave.EU wind up artist Andy Wigmore would be played by Deuce Bigalow’s Rob Schneider. He knows why.

Cambridge Analytica’s Alexander Nix is the spit of Stephen Merchant. And about as comical a character. 

This being Channel 4, the show will no doubt be a big Remainer whinge about data. Sheldon from Big Bang Theory is BeLeave money man Darren Grimes.

Kelly Osbourne just needs a slight trim and a pair of glasses and she is Observer whistleblower Chris Wylie.

Fellow whistleblower Shahmir Sanni promised Watergate and delivered a dodgy Zoolander. He’d be played by Ben Stiller.

And, guest starring as Carole Cadwalladr, Homeland’s Claire Danes.

Coming soon…

Jezza’s New Definition of Madness

Albert Einstein defined madness as “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. Jeremy Corbyn today topped-off a staggeringly poor PMQs performance – naturally, in blindingly severe contrast to last week’s outing – by calling on the Prime Minister to resign. He screeched:

“If the prime minister cannot negotiate a good deal for Britain why doesn’t she step aside and let Labour negotiate… Step aside and make way for those who will.”

In October last year Jezza stood in exactly the same spot and wailed across the despatch box:

“Isn’t it the case that if the PM can’t lead, she should leave?”

Just three days before last year’s general election, when asked whether he would call on May to resign over police numbers, Corbyn replied:

“Indeed I would.”

The same month he said May must:

“Go and make way for a government that is truly representative of this country.”

Then in September he demanded of her:

 “For Britain’s sake pull yourself together or make way.”

Every few weeks, at an increasing frequency, perhaps altered by imperceptible changes in the earth’s magnetic field (observable only to Piers Corbyn) – or due to signal fluctuations received from the short wave radio housed in the attic of the Russian Embassy – Jezza’s behaviour suddenly enters an almost lycanthropic mode. In the dead of night he morphs into the ‘resign now’ monster, a humiliating Hyde to his bumbling Jekyll, an embarrassing form of political lunacy. At PMQs the mask slips and we see a lone oddball, repeatedly bashing his head against the proverbial brick wall, endlessly howling at the moon… 

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Badgered

Just before a PMQs Ed Miliband panicked and asked Ayesha Hazarika about his grey hair streak: “I’ve got to ask you something. Just look at me honestly, do you think I look like a badger?” Seriously?

Its a strong look!

Thornberry Talks Up Assad

Emily Thornberry is rightly under fire for talking up Assad’s popularity in a bizarre interview with Prospect magazine:

“There is an argument that if [President Bashar al-Assad] had been as overwhelmingly unpopular as the rebels told the west at the outset then he wouldn’t be there. I think there has been a depth and a breadth of support for Assad that has been underestimated.”

Prospect were certainly unimpressed, reporting: “Not once in our discussion on Syria is she critical of the Assad regime”. The Shadow Foreign Secretary rather gave the game away later on in the interview:

Assad may not get special blame, but others do. Foreign forces, she says, need to leave. That includes Britain, which is currently taking part in air-strikes against IS. “They’re not fighting for the sake of the Syrian people. Any of them.” She lists the countries involved. “UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, Turkey, America, Britain—have I missed anyone?” She has. “Russians!” she adds, quickly.

Grim…

May Customs Union Gaffe

The PM’s spokesman quickly clarifies that she meant “future customs arrangement”, not “future customs union”. Phew!

PMQs: Who’s Asking The Questions

Oral Questions to the Prime Minister

Q1 Simon Hoare (North Dorset) If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 16 May.

Q2 Jenny Chapman (Darlington)

Q3 Craig Tracey (North Warwickshire)

Q4 Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon)

Q5 Mrs Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Q6 Mr Virendra Sharma (Ealing, Southall)

Q7 Teresa Pearce (Erith and Thamesmead)

Q8 Thelma Walker (Colne Valley)

Q9 Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South)

Q10 Maggie Throup (Erewash)

Q11 Sir Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

Q12 Bob Blackman (Harrow East)

Q13 Dr David Drew (Stroud)

Q14 Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North)

Q15 Stephen Gethins (North East Fife)

Comments in the comments…

Irish Border Camera Problem Solved

A lot of Remainers are agitating around the issue of cameras on the Irish border. Karen Bradley, one of the Remainers on the Brexit sub-committee, has insisted this morning that there will be no new Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras. Remainers don’t seem to realise that there already are high definition cameras at the Irish border with a high speed data link to police computers, which can easily be retasked to connect with customs and excise computers. The video above was taken at the border on the A1 motorway, the main route between Dublin and Belfast along which the vast majority of intra-Ireland trade happens. Problem solved!

Three Labour Lewisham East Candidates Promoted Extremist Imam

Three of the Labour candidates on the Lewisham East shortlist promoted a radical imam who the High Court ruled “clearly promoted and encouraged violence in support of Islam and espoused a series of extremist Islamic positions”. 

Shakeel Begg is the imam at Lewisham Islamic Centre. In 2016 he lost a libel action against the BBC after a judge ruled he had promoted violence. Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said “he has shed the cloak of respectability and revealed the horns of extremism”. The court heard that in 2006, Begg gave a speech urging his followers to travel to Palestine to “fight the Zionists”. In 2008, Begg praised Muslims who had travelled abroad to fight enemies of Islam. Two further speeches were found to have contained extremist content. The judge ruled:

“The various core extremist messages which emerge from the claimant’s speeches and utterances would, in my view, have been quite clear to the audiences. The claimant’s ostensible cloak of respectability is likely to have made his [extremist] message in these speeches all the more compelling and seductive. For this reason, therefore, his messages would have been all the more effective and dangerous. It is all too easy for someone in the claimant’s position of power and influence as an Imam to plant the seed of Islamic extremism in a young mind, which is then liable to be propagated on the internet.”

Lewisham Islamic Centre is one of the most controversial mosques in Britain. In 2013, it was revealed that Lee Rigby’s killers Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale had links to the mosque. A Whitehall source told the papers: “It does attract a radical crowd and radical speakers and has its fair share of converts. From that perspective it is significant. Adebolajo and Adebowale did go there, and anywhere that attracts extremists is of interest”.

Despite these extremist links, Labour’s candidates in Lewisham East have repeatedly promoted Shakeel Begg and the Lewisham Islamic Centre.

Two weeks ago, Sakina Sheikh, the Momentum-backed candidate, was filmed sharing a platform with Begg at the Lewisham Islamic Centre. During her recent council campaign, Lewisham Islamic Centre produced a leaflet urging local Muslims to vote for Sheikh. It said: “We pray that Allah (God) Almighty blesses… Ms Sakina Sheikh”.

In February, Janet Daby, also a Lewisham East candidate, took part in a panel discussion with Begg at Lewisham Islamic Centre.

In October last year, Brenda Dacres, another Lewisham East candidate, promoted a lecture given by Begg at Lewisham Islamic Centre. In August last year, Dacres joined Begg at a Unite Against Fascism rally.

Begg is clearly a player in Lewisham, he was certainly seen as important by Labour politicians seeking votes on their council campaigns, so much so that one candidate even publicly appeared with him the night before this month’s local elections. He is also someone who the High Court says is a dangerous extremist. At the height of Labour’s anti-Semitism scandal, it is unfortunate that three of Labour’s candidates in Lewisham East have promoted someone who told his followers to travel to Palestine to “fight the Zionists”…

Bercow Worked With Labour on Humble Address

Labour’s latest Brexit hypocrisy comes in the form of their attempt to force the government to reveal its negotiating hand in the Commons tonight. Back in 2016, Keir Starmer promised he would never seek to compel the government to disclose confidential Brexit papers:

“I fully accept that the Government will enter into confidential negotiations for a number of months and that producing a plan should not undermine that process. This is not the first time that I have said that; I have said it repeatedly…. I do… accept that there is a level of detail and of confidential issues and tactics that should not be disclosed, and I have never said otherwise”

Seems he has changed his mind.

Tory MPs and ministers are livid with John Bercow’s role in Labour’s Brexit games. A senior Whitehall source says it was Bercow who first told Starmer about the possibility of using a humble address motion (an arcane parliamentary procedure explained here) to force the government to reveal the papers: “It wouldn’t be happening without him“. Tory MPs are asking why the impartial Commons Speaker, who had a “Bollocks to Brexit” sticker in his car and publicly backed Remain, has been actively coming up with ideas to help Labour’s attempts to undermine Brexit. Bercow’s behaviour on this is riling Tory MPs as much as any of the other revelations about the Speaker over the last few weeks…

Bercow Worried About Bats in the Belfry

Renovations to the parliamentary estate are being hampered by the threat to bats roosting in the roofs above MPs’ offices. Next week John Bercow is sending inspection teams round Norman Shaw North to gauge how many of the night-loving winged mammals have made their homes in the building’s roof voids. A significant discovery of the endangered toothy critters could lead to planning permission being denied:

“As part of the Northern Estates Programme a visual survey of all rooms in Norman Shaw North is required. Part of the survey will involve images to be taken of all rooms, these images will be for use in the project only.

Alongside this there will also be an ecology survey of all roof voids in Norman Shaw North. The ecology survey will establish an understanding of the likelihood of roosting bats and inform a key requirement for the planning application of the project.”

The Bat Conservation Trust says that in the UK bat populations have declined significantly over the last decade, with the loss of habitat caused by building and development work one of the main reasons behind plunging numbers. Usually the high-pitched squeaking comes from the Speaker’s chair…

Will the Young Still Grow into Old Tories?

Who Would You NEVER Vote For?

The Centre for Policy Studies is trying to convert the young away from socialism and fix “the urgent need for the Conservative Party to make the case for its values and principles to the younger generation”.  What Guido noticed in their pamphlet was the party people say they would never vote for. No surprises, antipathy to the Tories halves as the decades pass – and the number for whom voting Labour becomes anathema triples. It echoes that ever-contested quote: “If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain.” Perhaps the age brackets are out of date…

Stephen Bush argued in the New Statesman that “this time it is different” and as people get older their values won’t change, they will basically stay socially liberal and keep voting Labour. An argument that has been made since the 1960s and it still hasn’t stopped the centre-right governing for most of the last half-century in most of the West. He could be right about the future, however it is the populists who are hoovering up support from socially conservative types intolerant of minorities. Conventional centre-right conservative parties are already socially liberal in most Western democracies.

David Aaronovitch, Emily Thornberry and others argue that the “Brexit generation” are dying out. Demographics suggest otherwise, people are living longer and voting for right-of-centre parties for longer. Their numbers will be refreshed, just as they have throughout the last century, as younger Labour voters become parents and homeowners. That is so long as the Tories fix the housing affordability problem…

Barnier’s Lost in Space Over Galileo

Remainers are becoming more and more excited over the impact of Brexit on UK participation in EU space activities, especially the Galileo satellite network. The Galileo navigation system is the EU’s rival to US-owned GPS. A key element of the system, designed for military and emergency services, is a timing and navigation signal called the PRS (Public Regulated Service).[…] Read the rest

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“As you said last week, Mr Speaker, we have a responsibility to safeguard the rights of this House and as Leader of the House I seek to do exactly that, treating all members of parliament with courtesy and respect. I hope and expect all Honourable and Right Honourable members to do likewise.”

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