The wheels of a Parliament grind slow but they grind fine.
Andrew Lansley’s evidence to the Governance committee this week is very damaging to John Bercow’s prospects.
The committee was set up to look at the Speaker’s (disastrous) handling of the appointment of chief Clerk of the Commons. As Guido pointed out early in the year, it was clear that Bercow was operating a policy of Diminish and Rule to increase his suffocating grip on Commons life.
Abolishing, or massively diminishing, the office of Clerk would give him unrestrained access to the powers and budgets of department heads.
Andrew Lansley confirmed in evidence that Bercow ran the recruitment as if it was his own personal process (in our view, to appoint the one person he had in mind from the outset).
Up he stood with one prepared earlier by nitwits unknown.
Faced with prolonged Tory cheers, the ones he gets every week, he said, “Let’s see if they’re still cheering on Friday!” (Laughter)
The Rochester by-election is set to give the Tories a rollicking. That much we have known for a fortnight, all through Ed’s leadership crisis.
But it’s usually a mistake to chaff the prime minister. “I make one prediction,” he said in his easy, Eton house-room way, “the people behind me will still be cheering HIM on Friday.”
The news on Friday morning may be shocking enough to revive Labour panic. What happens if they poll 15 per cent? Tory failure has been priced in – has Labour melt-away? How will the 100-odd Labour MPs feel when their vulnerability is dramatised for them? When they look ahead to the loss of their precious seat?
Because it’s all about Ed. Presidential Ed. The teeth of the campaign. The big brain behind it. The single greatest weakness of the party is given the greatest prominence. Who thought that was a good idea?
It isn’t a confection of the right wing press: voters look at Ed and shudder.
Ed listening is a sight for sore eyes. He crouches slightly and goes very still, pointing his face at the questioner, concentrating his whole being in their direction. He may quiver slightly, like a greyhound.
It’s what people who don’t listen do to show they’re listening.
He speaks human too. “I want some gender balance,” he said, taking questions. “There’s a lady over there.”
She didn’t say, “How dare you talk to me like that!” But how did he dare?
“I want some ethnic balance, you sir with the headgear, and the um, the you know,” (Rubs his hands in a circular motion over his cheeks). He knows you can’t do that, at least.
He didn’t actively empathise with anyone, God knows how he would have done that and who would have cleaned up afterwards.
A journalist got hold of a microphone and asked if Ed would accept there was a crisis of confidence in his leadership.
He said, “My answer is no.”
Straightforward denial of reality. Very important quality in a leader. If you can describe Ed as a leader.
He said they were going to “change the way the economy works.”
Big job, that.
The weekly pleasure of Ed Miliband in action.
He’s like an eight year old boy unused to fighting running into a fight. Wild face, arms windmilling, making strange noises, not punching but slapping like a girl.
He ran at Cameron six times. Six times Cameron put a hand on the lad’s forehead and watched the arms flail, the hands flap, the teeth dance in his mouth.
It was Europe. Would Cameron repeat what he said two years ago and say he’d campaign to stay in the EU?
A week is a long time in politics. Two years is time for an ice age and its inter-glacial period. Nonetheless, Ed insisted Cameron repeat his ancient undertakings.
Cameron had a perfectly serviceable – if swervy – answer.
He wanted to stay in a reformed EU. That was the plan.
There really was nothing to see there. Did Miliband move on to the Treasury shambles following the EU’s £1.7 billion demand? Or to a forensic dissection of Cameron’s impossible task?
No, Miliband kept coming back to Cameron’s personal position on the forthcoming campaign, and kept getting the serviceable answer. His rhetorical climax was: “He’s the Don’t Know prime minister.”
At that point, twenty or thirty female Labour MPs could have posed for Munch. A mass Scream.
“An absolute shower,” (pron. “shar “) Cameron called them, the Labour leadership.
Perhaps he thought any more detailed attention would be to kick Miliband when he was down.
You shouldn’t kick your opponent when he is down. When your opponent is down you should gently bind him, place a careful foot on his croaking throat and dismember him. Harvest his organs. Mummify him and keep him in your cellar. Your friendly smile should never lose its freshness while you work.
“An absolute shar” hasn’t had the effect Cameron was counting on since 1956.
There has never been a more ridiculous duo leading a major party than Ed Balls and Miliband. Their polling is pitiful. Their strategy woeful. They couldn’t be more insulated from their voters than if they were wearing gimp suits, boxing gloves and a This Is What A Feminist Looks Like T-shirt.
They are following in the tradition of Michael Foot’s Labour, “there will be no compromise with the electorate.”
That is no reason for assuming they won’t win the election.
The famous Carol Mills – John Bercow’s personal candidate for the position of Clerk of the Commons – was up in front of an Australian Senate finance committee this week.
An “excruciating process” (in the words of one present) extracted a number of admissions and confessions that undermine her reputation in the Commons as a “world-class administrator”.
· * Her department hasn’t had a Chief Financial Officer for 12 months.
· * While she chairs the Security management Board – a separate security panel was set up without her knowledge.
· * The threat level may have been fiddled to help justify a $400,000 cut in the security budget.
· * While cuts were being made and improvements to parliamentary facilities were being denied – she spent $3m on refitting her office (nearly twice the original estimate).
· * A contract for $30,000 to take 10 photographs was given to a friend and neighbour of hers from the same Sydney street.