“Policing by consent” got a pretty good rap in the Report stage of the Public Order Bill, just now – but whose consent they didn’t specify.
Oil protesters sit in the middle of roads with that air of suffering humility while three-day tailbacks pile up in front of them. The police, deciding this isn’t “serious disruption”, seem to require their consent to move them out of the way.
The Bill creates many offences, all of which, it was repeatedly said, could be policed by existing laws – those covering wilful obstruction of the highways, public nuisance, aggravated trespass and any number of closely-defined misdemeanours dating back beyond the 1986 Public Order Act to medieval times
Not content with blocking parliamentary staffers’ access rights to Strangers’ bar, Guido hears a fierce turf war has kicked off between MPs and Lords over terrace access rights. Speaking to a noble friend last night, it emerged they had recently been told they didn’t have permission to be served in Strangers’, leading to awkwardness in front of the guest for whom they’d tried buying drinks. By coincidence, a co-conspirator got in touch at the same time claiming that earlier this week, Speaker Lindsay Hoyle was asked to leave the Lords’ terrace because he didn’t have access privileges…
It was apparently in retaliation to this that Hoyle issued the reciprocal edict for Lords attempting to enjoy the Commons half of the terrace. The battle spilt out into the open when Commons doorkeepers assumed their new role as terrace bouncers, blocking peers from entry. Peace talks are said to be scheduled today…
This morning the chairman of the Commons Procedure Committee Sir Charles Walker has written to MPs’ offices telling them staff must not abuse their access to the estate by getting drunk and sleeping in their office:
“I am writing to all Colleagues to express my concerns that some Parliamentary passholders, including Members’ staff, are abusing their privileges in relation to working at the House of Commons.
During a recent meeting with Alison Giles, Director of Security for Parliament, I learned that passholders are returning to the premises, having missed the last train home after a night out, to sleep in their office. This behaviour, though isolated, is wholly outside the rules, both for security and fire risk purposes.
In view of the above, I am asking Colleagues to be vigilant in ensuring that passholders, be they our staff or anyone else, conduct themselves to the highest standard at all times. If you see unacceptable behaviour, please bring it to the attention of the Serjeant-at-Arms who will deal with it.
Any member of your staff struggling with addiction can access support through the confidential Employee Assistance Programme: XXXXXXXXXXX
The House will be communicating directly with its own staff. Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.
Sir Charles Walker
Chair of the Committee”
There is a venerable tradition of hammered, worse for wear young staffers sleeping overnight in their offices. Sometimes more adventurous and exciting activities occur, those flames of passion are not actually a fire risk. Ignore the killjoys and take your chances…
Sparks flew on Newsnight yesterday as Charles Walker – who’d clearly had his Weetabix – turned up to defend Boris’s new cabinet against a Labour spokesperson and Anna Soubry. Some might say one and the same…
Nadine Dorries provided the biggest clash, as the eternally bitter Soubry ranted that her appointment “actually says everything that’s wrong and rotten about this prime minister’s stewardship of this country”. Charles Walker had some thoughts:
“Nadine Dorries has been a health minister, a minister of state, at an incredibly difficult time for the department of health; has been an extremely good minister for mental health; and really to come onto this programme and just trash her like that is just not a very nice thing to do to be perfectly honest”
Responding to Soubry’s claim that people don’t really care about reshuffles in the real world, Walker pointed out “Why is it the lead story on Newsnight, and why are you appearing on Newsnight?” Why indeed…
Guido’s been speaking to numerous Tory MPs and other prominent candidates up and down the country, and is yet to find one who says the current cronyism/sleaze/flat refurbishment media storm come up on the doorstep, nor in their MP constituency post bags. No doubt to the Lobby and Labour’s irritation.
A few have asked “why the hell did Boris pick a fight with Cummings?” It’s remarkable – assuming they are telling the truth – how much of a disconnect there seems to be on this story between the Westminster bubble and the outside world. One prominent red wall candidate told Guido:
“I’m as interested in politics as the next politician, but even I’m finding it difficult to follow and understand what the actual issue is. Not surprised that nobody up here is paying any attention. Could be wrong, but it feels like another example of Westminster and MSM being completely disconnected”.
The proof in the pudding will obviously be the May elections.
Nevertheless, might Tory MPs be getting increasingly frustrated with the distraction? While there will be outliers willing to give a headline-grabbing gobby quote, it’s worth revisiting Charles Walker’s Newsnight rant from two days ago, where he not only defended the PM with vigour, he will have been echoing the views of the 1922 executive in his role as vice-chair. In normal times, today’s PMQs would give Tory MPs the opportunity to show a rallying behind the PM. The maintained social distancing rules will quash that opportunity however.
UPDATE: Charles demonstrated to Channel 4 News viewers that he’s already got his milk. He also reveals he hates needles so won’t be getting the vaccine, however if it were possible to take via brioche or jaffa cake he’d be up for it.