Cummings Calls Collins’ Bluff

As grandstanding Remoaner and DCMS select committee chair Damian Collins fires off another grandiose letter to Dom Cummings threatening to send the men in tights round, the Vote Leave chief responds:

If you had wanted my evidence you would have cooperated over dates. You actually wanted to issue threats, watch me give in, then get higher audiences for your grandstanding. I’m calling your bluff. Your threats are as empty as those from May/Hammond/DD to the EU. Say what you like, I will not come to your committee regardless of how many letters you send or whether you send characters in fancy dress to hand me papers.

As Guido has written previously, 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…

Cummings also has a warning for the Brexit-hating DCMS committee and other ultra-Remainer MPs:

I’m told many of your committee support the Adonis/Mandelson/Campbell/Grieve/Goldman Sachs/FT/CBI campaign for a rematch against the country. Do you know what Vote Leave 2 would feel like for the MPs who vote for that (and donors who fund it)? It would feel like having Lawrence Taylor chasing you and smashing you into the ground over and over and over again. Vote Leave 2 would not involve me — nobody will make that mistake again — but I know what it would feel like for every MP who votes for a rematch against the public. 

One of the mistakes Brexiters made was letting Vote Leave stop campaigning…

Corbyn’s NHS Attack Glossary

Today’s déjà vu PMQs was little more than a throwback to the worst recurring terror in the panoply of British political nightmares: Theresa May vs Jeremy Corbyn on ‘Our National Health Service’. Across the despatch boxes the topic is life-sucking, it has the signal-jamming effect of blocking all thought, locking onto any form of intelligent argument and blowing it up as would an interceptor missile. To watch May and Corbyn on the NHS engenders a particularly strong sensation of their detachment from reality; we too are trapped in their eternal feedback loop of massaged statistics, meaningless platitudes and over-hyped, baseless accusations, always – wave to the sheep – diverted via Wales, fated only to end up where we began. These exchanges are as incisive as a blunt scalpel and enjoyable as a bout of haemorrhoids…

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PMQs: Who’s Asking the Questions?

Oral Questions to the Prime Minister

Q1 Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 23 May.
Q2 Nigel Huddleston (Mid Worcestershire)
Q3 Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire)
Q4 Mary Glindon (North Tyneside)
Q5 Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay)
Q6 Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields)
Q7 Tom Pursglove (Corby)
Q8 Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon)
Q9 Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central)
Q10 Jo Platt (Leigh)
Q11 Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston)
Q12 Julian Sturdy (York Outer)
Q13 Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire)
Q14 Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith)
Q15 Mark Pawsey (Rugby)}

Comments in the comments…

Bercow Confesses: I Did Call Leadsom Stupid

The Speaker admits:

“I used the word stupid in a muttered aside. That adjective simply summed up how I felt.”

Doesn’t address whether he used the sexist term “stupid woman”. Doesn’t apologise. Not a good look…

WATCH: Moment Bercow Flipped Out at Leadsom

This is the moment John Bercow allegedly called Andrea Leadsom a “stupid woman” and “f***ing useless” on Wednesday. In an extraordinarily bad-tempered rant, even by the Speaker’s standards, Bercow eyeballs Leadsom and admonishes her in a particularly aggressive manner. Leadsom is so unimpressed at Bercow’s macho behaviour that she deliberately looks away and refuses to make eye contact. When you watch the video, you can see this visibly infuriates the pint-sized Commons ref, whose bluster builds into an almost deranged crescendo. When the Speaker finishes, the camera pans out. At this point Bercow turns to the left, clearly gesticulates towards Leadsom and appears to say something. An eye-witness tells Guido that Bercow said a number of words, one of which was definitely “outrageous”. Bercow does not deny that he also called her a “stupid woman” and “f***ing useless”. 

The Speaker has previously flat out denied all the recent bullying allegations against him. Guido understands he has not denied this one because he fears footage will emerge proving he did say it. Footage in the Commons is controlled by the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit. There is always a camera on the Speaker, the PBU will have had the footage, as yet they are not being forthcoming about helping to clear up what was said. As with all parliamentary bodies, all roads lead to the Speaker, so the PBU will be under immense internal pressure to cover this up. This week MPs on the Standards Committee voted to block an investigation into Bercow. He is being protected by the system. Anyone who comes by the footage can leak it to Guido in confidence here

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…

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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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…

Bercow Insists He’s Staying

At business questions Tory MP James Duddridge asked the government whether there would be time for a debate on the qualities required in the next Speaker. Modest, calm, dignified, cool under pressure, punctual, that kind of thing…

Scandal-hit Bercow suggested he is staying put and couldn’t resist delivering a personal slap-down to Duddridge. He said:

“I very gently say to the Honurable Gentleman in terms which are very straightforward and which I know he will be fully able to understand… the Honourable Gentleman will recall I indicated my willingness to continue in the chair in June of last year…”

Things have somewhat changed since then, Mr Speaker.

295 MPs Who Tried to Muzzle the Press

This is the roll call of wrong ‘uns who tried to implement Leveson 2. Fortunately for the freedom of the press, they failed by nine votes.

Abbott, rh Ms Diane
Alexander, Heidi
Ali, Rushanara
Allin-Khan, Dr Rosena
Amesbury, Mike
Antoniazzi, Tonia
Ashworth, Jonathan
Austin, Ian
Bailey, Mr Adrian
Bardell, Hannah
Barron, rh Sir Kevin
Beckett, rh Margaret
Benn, rh Hilary
Berger, Luciana
Betts, Mr Clive
Black, Mhairi
Blackford, rh Ian

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Rarest of PMQs: Corbyn Wins, Speaker Cheered

A white peacock, Shakespeare’s signature in manuscript, the transition of Venus, pure platinum, the albino humpback whale, a Wagyu steak Big Mac, the first-contact of a lost tribe, a blue moon, the philosopher’s stone, blood type AB minus, the St. Francis Satyr butterfly, a complete copy of The Gutenberg Bible, the element astatine, a jeroboam of Château Mouton-Rothschild 1945, a twin tornado ripping across a golden plain of orchids illuminated by a double rainbow: all of them among the rarest occurrences or items found on this mad, spinning, Tory-run sphere we call home. Yet one phenomenon is rarer still…

It has been valued by Christie’s experts as beyond the sum of all currency currently in circulation – globally. It has been verified by the most expert lapidarists as less common than the rarest known gem. NASA scientists have placed it beyond technological understanding. A panel of the top surgeons concurred it lies beyond medical explanation. Philosophers and mystics place it beyond the reckoning of all human comprehension, beyond knowledge obtainable by the essence of the soul itself. What ever can it be? Jeremy Bernard Corbyn winning six nil at Prime Minister’s Questions, of course…

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MPs Cry For “More” Lindsay Hoyle

Let Bercow be in no doubt as to what the Commons thinks of him: MPs cried “more” as Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle stepped in for today’s PMQs. 43 days ’til Bercow promised to stand down…

Now Vaz Reports Bridgen to Standards Commissioner (Again)

Keith Vaz has reported Tory MP Andrew Bridgen to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards – again. Bridgen first complained to the Commissioner about Vaz’s conduct in September 2016 after the Labour grandee was the subject of an infamous newspaper expose. The Commissioner opened an inquiry which was suspended for months due to ‘health reasons’. Almost two years after the coke and rent boys shenanigans, Vaz is in the House the Commissioner’s probe is back on

At the time Vaz retaliated, complaining about Bridgen to the same watchdog, arguing that any investigation into his conduct was outside the Commissioner’s scope. The Commissioner rejected Vaz’s complaint…

Now Vaz has complained yet again, this time on the grounds that Bridgen has commented on Vaz’s case to the media. Bridgen tells Guido:

“Mr Vaz is clearly somewhat rattled.”

How long will it take the Commissioner to dismiss this one…

PMQs: Who’s Asking the Questions?

Oral Questions to the Prime Minister

Q1 Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 9 May.

Q2 Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith)

Q3 Hannah Bardell (Livingston)

Q4 Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington)

Q5 Matthew Pennycook (Greenwich and Woolwich)

Q6 Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington)

Q7 Maria Caulfield (Lewes)

Q8 Bill Esterson (Sefton Central)

Q9 Holly Lynch (Halifax)

Q10 Jeremy Quin (Horsham)

Q11 Julian Sturdy (York Outer)

Q12 Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central)

Q13 Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd)

Q14 Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland)

Q15 Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby)

Comments in the comments…

Bercow Welcomes Vaz Back From Illness

Good news for those concerned about the health of Keith Vaz, who has been missing from parliament after being declared ill, delaying the investigation into his coke and rent boys mishap indefinitely. Vazeline is back at work today. “It’s very good to welcome him back to the Chamber,” said his old friend and protector John Bercow…

Critiquing the Corbyn Clip Crap

Regular observers will have grown used to Jeremy Corbyn losing his marbles at Prime Minister’s Question Time – but never before have those marbles scattered so wildly across the chamber as they did today. Like a deranged late-career performance artist, Jezza wildly changed-up his style: no more the cunning ‘forget to ask the question entirely’ ploy, or that genius googly where he sits down mid-sentence. Today was altogether more cavemanlike, frankly more berserk – and more raw, more terrifying. Jezza used the good ol’ ‘flick and stick’: throw enough paint at the wall and some of it will cling…

‘But he’s doing it for the clips, it’s all for social media!’ says you, an in-the-know political insider. Save that fool-talk for your pathetic and ill-informed dinner parties. It’s quite straightforward: if you took an enormous sh*t-filled fire hose and sprayed its contents all over a blank canvas, you wouldn’t suddenly have the Mona Lisa just by videoing the mess and sticking it on YouTube, would you? Jezza’s Jackson Pollock approach to the art of PMQs meant we were lectured on Windrush, the NHS, schools funding, police funding, Amber Rudd, child poverty, and the macroeconomic situation – all within minutes. Dizzying, ineffective and risible. One feared Jezza was on the cusp of attacking Theresa May over Gulf I, allotments and the lack of publicly-funded raspberry jam… Continue reading

Bercow Calls Patsy Julian Lewis to Praise His Treatment of Staff

Absurd spectacle in the Commons as John Bercow calls his pal Julian Lewis to make a patsy point of order asking the Speaker to confirm just how much his staff love him. Bercow takes the opportunity to say the “great majority” of his former staff left on good terms. As he and Lewis know, that isn’t the point. How many of Bercow’s former staff did not leave on good terms? And why? This is not the behaviour of an innocent man…

PMQs: Who’s Asking the Questions?

Oral questions to the Prime Minister

Q1 Wera Hobhouse (Bath) If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 2 May.

Q2 Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire)

Q3 Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham)

Q4 Hywel Williams (Arfon)

Q5 Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West)

Q6 Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central)

Q7 Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough)

Q8 Mrs Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden)

Q9 John Stevenson (Carlisle)

Q10 Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North)

Q11 Paula Sherriff (Dewsbury)

Q12 Helen Jones (Warrington North)

Q13 Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West)

Q14 Matt Warman (Boston and Skegness)

Q15 Chris Law (Dundee West)

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No prizes for guessing who Andrea Leadsom is talking about:

“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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