Burns v Laing For Deputy Speaker

Seven candidates put themselves in front of the 1922. Three or four emerged as front runners ahead of David Amess, Henry Bellingham, and celebrity MP Nadine Dorries. Simon Burns and Eleanor Laing box and cox for first and second places. Third is Brian Binley or Gary Streeter.

Nadine’s manifesto commitments included an aspiration not to tweet from the chair. This didn’t go over as well as she’d hoped.

The Speaker has been rumoured to be backing Eleanor Laing – but latterly, in his infinite complexity, he is said to be backing Binley as well. Why? Because Binley is standing down, his replacement won’t have time to establish him or herself and challenge Charles Walker, the Speaker’s chosen son in his succession planning. Is the rumour true? It’s true there’s a rumour.

The candidates are presenting themselves to Labour’s PLP meeting on Monday. And it will be Labour votes that will decide the election to the £102,000 a year job. That’s a full house of Speaker office holders decided by Labour.

And her embarrassment factor may be Nadine’s only real electoral appeal.

Where are the Lib Dems? No one has come forward, after Alan Beith has faded from view. They could surely rely on 58 votes from their party…

Non-Leveson-Compliant Sketch (With Topless Counsel and Hot Tubs)

Sir Brian Leveson’s clever strategy with his committee appearance was to stand on the Fifth (see Quote of the Day).

For the first long sequence of answers to Tory questions he confined himself to variations of “Quod dixi, dixi.” In English, “Read the report, you lazy tossers!”

But he was happy to answer Labour’s Ben Bradshaw as though he was being paid by the word.

Labour heads nodded sagely as he repeated his owlish judicialisms, and a chorus of Core Participants in reserved seats (two thirds of the public seating) chuckled supportively.

Tory Conor Burns wished the Inquiry had never been constituted. The criminal law could have cleared up the evils complained of.

Tory Tracey Crouch struck a spark. The three existing media regulators all had a different definition of “public interest”. So, was it possible to design a regulatory regime without a single definition of this important principle?

We had got along for years without such a definition, Sir Brian observed.

Yes, but we’d also got on for years without a Leveson-compliant regulatory regime.

Sir Brian’s decision not to engage in the cage-fight of public debate started to look understandable. He’s not very good at it.

Philip Davies’ audience enjoyed his impression of examining magistrate with his full array of contemptuous insinuations, nasty innuendoes and (best of all) insolent incredulity. Sir Brian didn’t like it one little bit.

The details are too many for this sketch but the general idea was that their Bonking Barrister’s Crafty Counsel’s Plea was for More Sex, We’re Solicitors! And Brian, the innocent old booby was in it up to his apricots.

Sir Brian doesn’t realise how these things work. If politicians are given a stitch they’ll eventually make a net.

As for not adding any kind of gloss on his report: “I should like to think the general public is sufficiently sophisticated to know what the general issues are.”

Of course he’d also like to think the general public reads Le Monde, eats Sartre sandwiches and is saving up for a Chagal.

Important Advice for Terrorists, Drug Dealers, Rich People


The viler, more antisocial elements among the readership may not have been watching Sir Charles Montgomery of the UK Border Force in front of the Public Accounts committee just now.

In short, if you want to evade the UK’s state-of-the-art border control system you can probably risk a walk through.

The chairman Margaret Hodge suggested that no one – or almost no one – had been stopped coming into the country.

This was resisted by the officials. Four people in the last six weeks alone had been stopped or prevented from entering the country. This achievement stood in spite of the block deletion of 650,000 records and “hundreds of thousands” of false positives as the department’s £500m computer system flails around, threshing data.

But back to you degenerates – to be completely sure of getting your illegal self laden with contraband into the country – come by private plane and land at one of hundreds of private airfields. It’s a free pass.

And that’s official.

NB: a small light aircraft consumes about as much fuel as a 3-litre car.

SKETCH: Royal Mail Offer Price – Political or Economic? Vince Cable in Front of Business Innovation and Skills

In view of the offer being so over-subscribed, the question the committee repeatedly asked was: is the Royal Mail offer undervalued?

Vince Cable said that was the sort of observation made by grey-market, fly-by-night, speculating outliers on the fringes of the financial community and his irresponsible opposite number (Chuka Umunna).

He didn’t carry the committee.

Adrian Bailey in the chair said he had been an auctioneer in a previous life. “If I pitched a price and thirty hands went up I’d know I’d underpriced it.”

The minister thought that to float shares wasn’t an auction. In what way he didn’t say.

Labour and Tory members wanted to know how he would judge whether he had underpriced the issue. If the price went up 10, 20, 40, 50 per cent, would that cause him to blush at all? He was going to ignore such froth, he said. He wasn’t going to take a snapshot seriously.

Prices, pah!

But what about the 23 acres of prime London property that might be sold for billions by a clever asset-stripping management in a rocketing market?

The minister said such an outcome would assume a serious error had been made in the valuation. “And I don’t buy that,” he said.

Neither do. I can’t afford it.

SKETCH: How nice to be back among the familiar faces

The same 12-year-old making the same pantomime faces with the same fat dame beside him. She was pursing her lips and exercising her exopthalmia; the little one was dropping his jaw and letting his teeth out for a canter – they were both giving us to understand they couldn’t believe what they were hearing. It’s the commedia del arte school of politics, in which words are not enough. In the case of the Eds that’s both astute and true.

“He has no answer to Labour’s Price Freeze policy! He has no idea!” That and “the cost of living crisis” which “IS an economic policy”.

These are propositions that belong in the playground.

On the other side, the Prime Minister failed to wipe the floor with them. A mysterious failure, considering the resources at hand. He had a Miliband quote when he was Energy minister: “To deal with the problems of climate change, prices will have to rise.”

That powerful point – and others like it, such as economic growth, the IMF upgrade, Ed Balls “being wrong about absolutely everything” – got lost in the noise.

As a student of Blair, Cameron should realise that deadliness comes from quietness. It’s how Blair destroyed Hague – he was there, he will remember.

And one Labour point does need some attention from Tory theologians – why is it wrong to interfere in the mortgage market but not the energy market?

But neither was there the correct answer to “Why are energy prices so high?” (No answer is complete without the word “shale” in it.)

The Tory roar at the end showed the Speaker struggling to keep control. Maybe Simon Burns’ bid for deputy speaker is gaining popularity. It’s inconceivable that the Speaker isn’t working behind the scenes on Eleanor Laing’s behalf. It will be the best joke of the year if the House saddles him with his best – and most bestial – enemy.

Remembering Diane Abbott’s parting shot, Ed Miliband seems to be adding a little anti-immigrant nationalism to his socialist instincts. The balance is important, obviously, but that strategy has been electorally successful in the past, abroad.

Vicious Simon Carr Joins Guido as Sketchwriter

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We are pleased to announce that the Guido team has a new member, Simon Carr. In the Gallery from 2000 until last year Simon was the sketch writer for the Independent. He has lived on both sides of the political fence having written speeches for a prime minister and helped to found a political party that got half a dozen MPs elected. But that was in another country.

He was said to be “the most vicious sketch writer in Britain” (Tony Blair) with “a sensibility exquisitely tuned to the House of Commons” (Peter Oborne) and “a complete ****” (various MPs). There is a minority report which describes him as “a very kind person”. He repudiates this.

Simon will be covering events for the Guido Fawkes Blog in the chamber, select committees, press conferences and any court appearances that do not directly include himself.

He starts today with the first PMQs of the new session.

Sketch Round-Up



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Quote of the Day

Andrea Leadsom told BBC Radio 4’s Today

“He’s made his views on Brexit on the record, and the problem with that of course is that the chair’s impartiality is absolutely essential. … He’s made his views known on Brexit… it’s a matter for him but nevertheless it’s a challenge and all colleagues need to form their own view of that.”

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