Question Asked in Commons Chamber

A man has proposed to his bride-to-be in the chamber of the House of Commons. In what may be an historical first civil servant Matthew Reville popped the question to Labour parliamentary aide Rachel Evans on the floor of the House late last Friday (when MPs were not sitting). Matthew tweeted a video showing the proposal with the caption “motion proposed on the floor of the House.” Congratulations to them both…

Parliament Changed Mail Screening Provider Before Suspicious Package Wave

Today saw the fifth suspicious package incident in Parliament in a week. Of course, MPs get letters from cranks and weirdos all the time. This wave of suspicious – thankfully non-harmful – substances leaking from inside mail is causing researchers genuine alarm. As Guido reported on Monday, police are probing any link to an anti-Muslim hate campaign. Guido can reveal another factor which may also be at issue. The gossip among staffers is that Parliament has recently switched to a new contractor to carry out mail screening. The budget for screening used to be shared with the Metropolitan Police until it was taken completely in house in 2015. Researchers say they have noticed a significant uptick in dodgy letters getting through. One said:

“It’s extremely disruptive. The company doing the external screening has got a lot to answer for.”

Further details about the contract are protected for security reasons. Whether MPs are working or evacuated, you’re still paying for it…

Putin Cackles as Watching Kremlin Activates Agent COB

At the Kremlin Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin settles into his golden throne to watch Prime Minister’s Questions and the accompanying statement. As a jack-booted servant flicks over from Russia Today, Vlad wonders aloud: “Who’s the thin old beardy bloke in the red tie?”

“That’s Jeremy Corbyn”, replies the trembling aide. “Who?” demands Putin, never more than a moment from a nuclear-level rage, or worse, offering to make an adviser’s tea. “You know, Mr President. Codename COB…”

The almond-eyed tyrant purses his lips then raises a smile. An FSB man never forgets a codename.

“Ah, da, da,” he whispers. “Activate Agent COB…”

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Bercow to Recuse Himself from Bullying Investigation Commission

Guido is hearing a rumour that Bercow will recuse himself from from chairing the House of Commons Commission investigation into bullying after coming under pressure and being threatened with a Point of Order coming up in the chamber. Presumably the Point of Order would ask him to rule on the righteousness of whether there was a conflict of interest in him being able to set the terms for his own investigation…

UPDATE: “Mr Speaker informed House of Commons Commission members this morning that he has decided to recuse himself from the agenda item concerning an Independent Complaints and Grievance Process. This item will now be taken first, with Tom Brake in the chair.” Tom Brake is a Bercow ally…

PMQs: Who’s Asking the Questions?

Questions to the Prime Minister

Q1 Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham, Deptford) If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 14 March.

Q2 Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington)

Q3 Mr Virendra Sharma (Ealing, Southall)

Q4 Alex Burghart (Brentwood and Ongar)

Q5 Bill Esterson (Sefton Central)

Q6 Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South)

Q7 Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North)

Q8 Richard Graham (Gloucester)

Q9 Jeremy Quin (Horsham)

Q10 Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire)

Q11 Vernon Coaker (Gedling)

Q12 Leo Docherty (Aldershot)

Q13 Jo Platt (Leigh)

Q14 Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton)

Comments in the comments…

Update: Sally Bercow Insists on “Bollocks to Brexit”

Guido’s co-conspirator gets in touch to say that Sally Bercow has now put a poster in the car windscreen, embellished with an EU flag, claiming it’s her car and she can do anything she wants. The co-conspirator would send an updated picture if there were not policeman stationed around the car…

The Serjeant-at-Arms’ office has been calling all day demanding we remove the picture because – they now claim – it poses a safety risk to the Bercow family. Perhaps in reality it is the personalised number plate that gives the owner away?

UPDATE II:  In the comments Guido is reminded that Sally previously had a car with her own number plate:

So is this car really hers?

Bercow Says “Bollocks to Brexit”

The Speaker has his personalised number-plated car, parked in his personal parking spot, with his personal message in the window; “Bollocks to Brexit”. Bercow has let it be known that he might want to stay past his promised 2018 departure date “to oversee Brexit”. Bollocks to that, Bercow…

Commons Clerks Sceptical About MP-Led Bullying Inquiry

If MPs are goood at anything it is buck passing and blame swerving. An investigation by MPs chaired by the Speaker is not promising…

Bercow chairs the House of Commons commission – which will set the terms of reference for an “independent” inquiry. Even Caroline Lucas, who is sympathetic to Bercow, says: “I think at the very least he should withdraw from that decision and that the three deputy speakers might judge on that…There might also be a case for stepping back temporarily if an investigation is carried out.” Can you imagine any other situation where the accused is allowed to be in judgement or set the terms of the investigation? This is manifestly against natural justice.

Motion Calling For Independent Inquiry into Bercow Bullying

An Early Day Motion has been tabled calling for an independent inquiry into John Bercow following bullying allegations:

“This house calls for an independent investigation into the allegations of bullying made against Mr Speaker.”

Caroline Lucas has been granted her Urgent Question at 3:30pm. Surely MPs on all sides will want to get to the bottom of this…

‘Lager Lout’ Farrelly’s History of Commons Brawls

Accused alongside Speaker John Bercow in the Commons staff bullying scandal is “lager lout” Labour MP Paul Farrelly. The rugby playing Newcastle-Under-Lyme MP has been implicated in a string of well-publicised scrapes and scraps. Last November Labour said they would investigate claims Farrelly “launched a foul-mouthed tirade” at colleague James Frith MP in one of the voting lobbies. Farrelly denied the allegations. It was claimed Farrelly was also involved in an angry confrontation with fellow Labour MPs Gareth Snell and Ruth Smeeth. A Labour spokesman said: “These are being investigated in line with the standing orders of the Parliamentary Labour Party.” What was the outcome? We’ve never heard back…

In 2010 Farrelly admitted wrestling a member of the public to the ground in a bar brawl on the parliamentary estate. He said he acted in self-defence when it was claimed he punched newspaper vendor Bjorn Hurrell above the eye in the incident outside parliament’s notorious Sports and Social bar. At the time Farrelly was a vocal critic of anti-social behaviour and claimed on his website: “Decent people should not see their lives blighted by nuisance and anti-social behaviour.”

Last night’s allegations concern Farrelly’s treatment of former clerk Emily Commander while she worked on the Culture, Media and Sport committee. An internal Commons report obtained by Newsnight shows the clerk told managers:

“I have been anxious about encountering Mr Farrelly… I have repeated nightmares about going on Committee visits with Mr Farrelly and being criticised by him for having neglected tiny details… After particularly unpleasant meetings I have lost my appetite and have on several occasions been physically sick.”

Further allegations surround a Committee trip to Italy in 2014. One participant on that trip claimed:

“He was a complete and utter bully. He wound her up like a screw and reduced her to tears. The more he upset her, the more he enjoyed it, the more he kept turning the screw. He was very aggressive. It felt like no one had the ability or authority to intervene. Everybody knew it was wrong.”

Farrelly told Newsnight: “In 2012 allegations were made about me having bullied a clerk to the Committee during the compilation of the phone hacking report. These allegations were investigated and not upheld.” If Labour are consistent they will suspend him…

A Bloody Difficult Woman Hung The Absolute Boy Out To Dry

A bloody difficult woman just rinsed the absolute boy. Completely, stunningly, beautifully hung him out to dry. And there was no doubt in the Chamber of the House of Commons this was a girl’s job well done.

The true strength of Theresa May’s killer line – that Corbyn had “mansplained” to her about International Women’s Day – wasn’t just in the delivery (though to the Prime Minister’s credit she nailed it; the House loved the funniest, best-targeted and pithiest one-liner she has ever used at PMQs – and perhaps her single most memorable). Those leopard-print kitten heels would have roared if they could.

The great joy of Theresa May’s set-piece salvo on Jeremy Bernard Corbyn’s sexism was even more simple. It worked so well because it is true.

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Corbyn Accuses British Military Advisers of “Directing” Yemen War

This is a quite astonishing claim which Jezza is surely going to have to justify…

May on Corbyn’s Mansplaining

One of May’s best ever slapdowns of Jezza…

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 7 March.
Q2 Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire)
Q3 Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside)
Q4 Stewart Malcolm McDonald (Glasgow South)
Q5 Kirstene Hair (Angus)
Q6 Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South)
Q7 Rachael Maskell (York Central)
Q8 Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland)
Q9 Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton)
Q10 Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East)
Q11 Mhairi Black (Paisley and Renfrewshire South)

Q12 Colin Clark (Gordon)

Q13 Marsha De Cordova (Battersea)
Q14 Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire)
Q15 Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire)
Comments in the comments…

Rees-Mogg Slams Impress and Mosley In Commons

These are the highlights of a rousing speech in defence of press freedom given by Jacob Rees-Mogg during last night’s Data Protection Bill debate:

“Mr Mosley was the authoriser of a leaflet… What did this leaflet say? As I say, this is so appalling that I am reluctant to read it out in Parliament. Under a heading of “Protect your health”, it said: “There is no medical check on immigration. Tuberculosis, VD and other terrible diseases like leprosy are on the increase. Coloured immigration threatens your children’s health.”

That is the view of the funder of IMPRESS. It is little wonder that our free press does not want to be associated with such a man. It is little wonder that, to its credit, the Labour party has now refused to take any further funding from this man, but IMPRESS has not. IMPRESS has not condemned this man. It has not said it will refuse further funding from the charitable trust he set up purely and specifically to keep IMPRESS running. IMPRESS has done nothing of this kind. It has a reputation of its own, and there is a certain irony in this; its chief executive is a man called Jonathan Heawood, and he tweeted, of all things, that the Daily Mail was “a neo-fascist rag”. Dare I say that he might know a good deal more about neo-fascists than one had thought when that tweet was originally circulated?”

Read Guido’s Impress File here. The Mogg’s not Impressed…

Watson Only Senior Labour Figure to Publicly Stand By Mosley

Tom Watson backed Max Mosley in the Commons earlier, making him the only Labour figure to continue to support the disgraced former fascist:

“If I thought for one moment he held those views contained in that leaflet 57 years ago, I would not have given him the time of day. He is a man though, who in the face of great family tragedy and overwhelming media intimidation, chose to use his limited resources to support the weak against the strong.”

As Guido noted yesterday, Watson is ignoring Mosley’s continuing dodgy views, including his insistence to Cathy Newman this week that he still believes infamous racist and fascist Walter Hesketh is a “very decent person”. Imagine what Watson would be saying if this was a Tory, or indeed anyone who hadn’t given him half a million quid.

Give Jezza the (High Tariff) Boot

Two centimetres of snow in Westminster provided excuse enough for Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, to arrive at the set piece event of the political week (watched by millions around the globe, the premium export of British democracy) in hiking boots. Yes, he actually wore a pair of grey, rubber soled hiking boots on the frontbench. Ugg boots and an ‘El Gato’ onesie next week? Spats? Clown shoes? Bowling sneakers? Summer’s on its way: sombrero? Why not get into the spirit of the upcoming World Cup and pitch up in full Venezuela strip? Or how about a mackintosh, trilby hat, sunglasses and a newspaper with eye-holes cut out? 

Your correspondent retraced the route from Corbyn’s office on the Parliamentary Estate to the Chamber of the House of Commons. 99% of that route is inside, under cover, in halls carpeted and heated at your expense. Snow-booted Jez took around five steps exposed to the elements in the course of passing from one palatial building to another – but it’s a path, not a Himalayan pass strewn with the fallen corpses and discarded oxygen bottles of weather-beaten climbers. And unlike the glacial pavements the rest of us have to contend with (despite ever rising council tax), Parliament’s outdoor walkways are cleared of snow by a gang of lackeys (also at your expense). We wouldn’t want any of our beloved politicians to slip over, God forbid! Moreover, it is worth pointing out – not to labour the obvious – that even the most apocalyptic of snowmageddons is yet to bring that white stuff actually inside House of Commons chamber. Why? The place has a roof. As a certain former Prime Minister almost put it, put some proper shoes on, you absolute scruff-bag, the way you dress is now nothing less than a matter of national disgrace. 

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May: No UK PM Could Accept EU Draft Text on Northern Ireland

Try again, Michel…

May: Conceding Control of Laws, Borders and Money Would Be a “Betrayal”

Leavers will be filing this clip away for the future… very difficult for May to backslide now she’s said doing so would be a “betrayal”…

Paw Law

Yesterday in Parliament (Hansard)

Rosie Duffield Labour, Canterbury
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether his Department has assessed the potential merits of introducing a new criminal offence of theft of a pet.

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Quote of the Day

Bill Cash, the original Brexiter, tells The Daily Politics he distinguishes…

“…between being in the customs union and a customs union… what a customs union means is something yet to be resolved.”


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