The only really enjoyable part of PMQs came right at the end in a question on immigration, and time running out. The PM broke off his answer with an abrupt change of subject to congratulate ex-Chief Clerk Sir Robert Rogers on his peerage.
It had been an indirect attack on the Speaker to make the hated Rogers a peer, now a slightly less indirect way of rubbing salt into the open wound that sits in the Speaker’s chair.
The House loved it. And not just Tories. Witnesses inside the Chamber said the cheering came from both sides of the House and went on for a parliamentary eternity (about 15 seconds).
The Speaker busied himself in conversation with his secretary. He wasn’t taking on that mob.
Feelings about the Speaker are like a tsunami wave travelling a long distance. Out at sea the wave looks like any other. Only when the seabed rises approaching land does the wave rise and reveal itself.
That was one moment of the wave passing an island. Up it reared.
In every second of every cheer the House was saying, “We know what you’re like. You bullied, browbeat, berated, swore at a decent man until he couldn’t take it any more and quit the job that meant the world to him. You have revealed yourself. And we won’t forget it.”
The occasion passes, the wave resumes its normal height, but it’s still traveling with undiminished power .
We’ve definitely reached peak Bercow. The poor fellow is running out in front of our eyes.
The ennoblement of Robert Rogers on Cameron’s recommendation is a marvellously indirect attack, recognised by everyone in the Commons. We all now know Rogers was hounded from office by the Speaker.
Less well known – the Speaker suffered a sharp set-back last week when the House of Commons Commission (which he chairs) voted to appoint hated, old Etonian David Natzler as temporary Chief Clerk.
Bercow voted against this – and lost.
Half the Commission is appointed by Bercow himself – his own people are starting to turn away from him.
But the position of chief executive is still vacant, as is the chair of the management board. Whom other top staff report to is unclear. It’s a managerial mess and entirely of the Speaker’s making.
Natzler is moving into the Clerk’s palatial office, and everyone underneath him has moved up as well.
Shifting them all back would cause a palace revolt.
This as much as anything makes Carol Mills’ appointment less likely than ever.
The Nolan principles of sketch writing – fairness, objectivity, kindness and so forth, I forget them exactly. Does he offer refresher courses?
Miliband today was, I thought, as bad as he’d ever been.
The face a mash-up of several untamed animals. The angry eight-year-old delivery. The whole package that of a bedroom boy locked away with his best friend, making economic models out of Lego. Not even worth breaking up for parts. And the drivel!
“Too harsh. He was quite good today,” one of his Labour enemies said. “The big story is whether Freud will survive the day.”
What! No! Really? As a result of Miliband’s questions? But that must mean he did quite well!
Carol Mills was known to “some members” of the clerk selection panel before Saxton Bampfylde put her up for interview, it was confirmed last night. So where did her name come from? Out of the hundreds – thousands – of senior administrators in the Commonwealth’s public services, how and why did Saxton Bampfylde decide to pop Carol Mills on to their long list? One suspicion is that this eminent head hunting company was hired as a blind, to make respectable a decision that had already been made. Who on the panel knew whom?
Last night, an advance in the Carol Mills story.
The House voted to set up a committee to consider the Governance of the House, including the role of the Clerk and chief executive.
Who thought procedure could be so exciting?
This is a decisive step forward. The remit is wider than expected. It allows, in theory, the source of yesterday’s Bully Bercow story to be called to give evidence.
“Governance of the House” includes control of the Speaker. When the Speaker is out of control, who controls him? That’s the essence of governance.
The Speaker’s bullying, abusive behaviour is within the remit of the committee. Allegations of committee-rigging, running candidates, planting questions, fixing appointments are all within the remit. How the dickens did he let that get through?
John Bercow will be pushing his candidates onto that committee as if his life depended on it (which it may do).
An answer from John Thurso to Michael Fabricant’s written parliamentary question has been made.
Fabricant asked whether the selection panel had been aware of the Australian Senate’s investigations into Carol Mills, and if so, at what stage they had been informed.
Thurso replied: “the panel was not made aware of the investigations before reaching its conclusion.”
Saxton Bampfylde, the head hunters knew. The Speaker must have known. The selection panel did not.
The Speaker, determined for reasons unknown to place Carol Mills in the job, must have withheld the most salient piece of information. All the evidence suggests he prevailed on the panel not to ask Saxton Bampfylde into the room in order that they should not find out about the Inquiries.
The panel has been carrying the can for John Bercow’s machinations.
They are starting to decide they needn’t carry it indefinitely.