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…

Guardian ‘Sat on Charity Sex Abuse Scandal Stories’

The Guardian sat on stories from charity sex abuse victims, according to claims made by an industry insider. An ‘overseas aid expert’ writing under a pseudonym told the OpenDemocracy website:

“Why didn’t the complainants go to somewhere like the Guardian? They did.

“These victims are not typical Mail and Telegraph readers and they understood that a story about a lack of accountability in an aid organization will likely be followed in those newspapers by calls for less foreign aid. None of the victims support that goal. What they want is aid plus accountability.  

“Almost all of the complainants went to the Guardian first. Different Guardian journalists were contacted, but all went quiet. One told me: “I just wanted to say I haven’t forgotten about this. Unfortunately the decision to work on the story or not is above my station, so I’m just waiting for a decision either way…” Later, when I asked if they had heard back the same journalist said: “I haven’t unfortunately. It was passed onto powers that be. At the moment it’s looking like it’s not going to run… I presume after some weighing of pros and cons.”

The writer then claims the whistleblowers turned to the right-leaning press: “When the Guardian sat on the story a subsection of the whistleblowers went to the Mail and the Telegraph, who ran it with many fewer sources.” The importance of a plural media…

UPDATE: Priti Patel tells the Sun:

“The Guardian and Save the Children should be apologising to the victims of these horrendous acts who have been let down by their appalling conduct and the subsequent cover-up. They have shown a callous lack of responsibility and a complete betrayal of the victims.”

Damian Green: I Did Nothing Inappropriate to Kate Maltby

An unrepentant Damian Green tells the Today programme he still believes he was never inappropriate to Kate Maltby and his text about her corset was just “a joke”. Put the shovel away…

Labour MPs Back Brendan Cox

Brendan Cox is “showing how he’s going to change” says Jess Phillips, while Lucy Powell says “good for” him for “reflecting”.

Compare and contrast with how they went after Toby Young over some tweets.

“Paying For Pleasure” on Oxfam Online Shop

Available on the Oxfam online book store this afternoon, “Paying for Pleasure: Men Who Buy Sex”.

“Drawing on original empirical data with men who buy sex, this book takes a fresh look at the relationships clients have with female sex workers… Managing secrecy, stigma and the consumption of intimacy takes this book into some of the more challenging theoretical areas of masculinity”

Anyone at Oxfam able to provide any “empirical data” on “managing secrecy” and the “more challenging theoretical areas of masculinity”?

Jewish Labour Chair Accused of Financial Misconduct as Tory Chief Mired in Cover Up

Belter of a story breaking over on the Jewish Chronicle – they’ve got hold of an audit into the conduct of Labour candidate and Jewish Labour Movement chair Jeremy Newmark, accusing him of deceiving the Jewish Leadership Council charity out of tens of thousands of pounds. The JC says the report alleges misuse of funds, misleading charities about the cost of projects and claiming inappropriate expenses, including claims that Newmark:

  • Put holidays and VIP transport for himself, his wife and their children on expenses
  • Withdrew thousands of pounds of unaccounted for cash on JLC credit and debit cards while failing to provide receipts
  • Paid his wife’s events consultancy firm more than £36,000
  • Leased a new BMW worth £46,000, to which he fixed his own personal number plate

Newmark denies the allegations.

Perhaps even more damaging are the allegations of a cover-up. The paper claims the JLC’s trustees, including Tory chief executive Mick Davies, kept Newmark’s alleged conduct secret when they found out. JC Editor Stephen Pollard writes:

“The trustees of the JLC took it upon themselves to bury all the evidence, going out of their way to keep it secret and ensure that the community was not allowed to know the truth about one of its most prominent figures.”

Looks pretty bad…

“Do You Want Some C*ck?” Jo Swinson’s #MeToo Moment

Reminder that the LibDems are in no way exempt from the Pestminster scandal

Damian Green Still Blogging About His ‘Commons Touch’

Damian Green is still blogging under the title ‘Commons Touch’; his pieces also go out as a newsletter under the same title. Time for a refresh?

‘Denis MacShane Put His Finger Up My Bum’

Interesting article on sexual harassment in the Guardian today from Laura Kipnis, author of Unwanted Advances. She tells the story of one of her own #MeToo moments, at the hands of an aspiring politician:

“The culprit was a future MP and Europe minister, the friend of a friend. We were in a group of people heading into a restaurant, and this guy, later to become so politically illustrious, who was walking behind me, and whom I’d met maybe 10 minutes before, reached forward and goosed me.

By goosed, I don’t mean he touched me on my butt, but in my butt, through the thin skirt I was wearing. I turned around and glared at him – I was young, jetlagged, and confused. Was this customary in Britain? What he’d done felt humiliating. I turned ahead and resolutely kept walking, whereupon he did it again.

Pressure on UKIP’s Bolton to Quit or Dump Jo Marney

Pressure building on badger-chasing UKIP leader Henry Bolton after the Mail on Sunday splashed racist messages about Meghan Markle from his new girlfriend Jo Marney. UKIP Chairman Paul Oakden told the Sunday Politics Bolton has “difficult decisions to make”, signalling he should either resign or dump the 25-year-old topless model. Meanwhile, UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge has called for Bolton to resign. Which would you choose?

Mark Garnier Cleared

Number 10 say:

“Following allegations of sexual misconduct, the Prime Minister asked the Cabinet Office to look into the behaviour of Mark Garnier MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for International Trade. The Cabinet Office’s investigation primarily considered Mr Garnier’s behaviour as a Minister, but also heard evidence from before he was appointed to government. 

The Cabinet Office concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that Mr Garnier’s conduct as a Minister since 2016 had breached the expected standards of behaviour. The Prime Minister’s view is therefore that Mr Garnier did not break the Ministerial Code while holding government office.

“The Cabinet Office also took evidence in relation to an incident that happened before Mr Garnier was a Minister, between Mr Garnier and a member of his parliamentary and constituency staff. The Cabinet Office concluded that there was no dispute about the facts of the incident, but there was a significant difference of interpretation between the parties, and that the member of staff in Mr Garnier’s office was distressed by what had occurred.

“It was not his intention to cause distress, and Mr Garnier has apologised unreservedly to the individual. On that basis the Prime Minister considers that a line should be drawn under the issue.”

Turns out the ministerial code says you can’t lie about porn but you can ask your researcher to buy sex toys…

Vaz Investigation “Suspended For Medical Reasons”

A few weeks ago Guido asked what had happened to the Standards Commissioner’s investigation into Keith Vaz, which still hasn’t reported back after nearly a year and a half. Today the ongoing investigations list has been updated to reveal that the Vaz inquiry has been “suspended for medical reasons”. It’s certainly true that Vaz has gone missing in recent weeks – he didn’t vote between 18 October and 13 December and he’s only spoken in the Commons once in the last month. He did however manage a trip to the Middle East earlier this month and to vote on the EU withdrawal bill last week. Get well soon…

UPDATE: Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told Guido:

“It’s deeply disappointing but not surprising. If Vaz is not fit to be held to the standards expected of a parliamentarian then he’s not fit enough to be a parliamentarian and we should be expecting a by-election.”

UPDATE II: Guido is reminded that slippery Vaz also went ill around the time of 2001 election when previous serious allegations against him were made. He went to ground for several weeks and so avoided Michael Crick. It’s hard to doorstep a sick man…

Clive Lewis Investigation Dropped

The Labour Party’s investigation into Clive Lewis for sexual harassment has been dropped. Lewis was accused last month of giving a woman’s bottom “a big squeeze” at a party conference event, which he denied. He did not have the whip withdrawn. A Labour party spokesperson said:

“After consideration of statements provided by the complainant and the respondent, the NEC’s sexual harassment panel has ruled that on the balance of the evidence the matter should not be referred to a full hearing of the national constitutional committee. The Labour party will not be commenting further on this case.”

In October Lewis apologised after telling an activist: “get on your knees, b*tch”. Brocialists looking out for each other…

Where Are the Dirty Dozen’s Promised Reports, Investigations and Decisions?

The Brexit noise is helpfully letting both the government and the Labour Party sit on the promised reports, investigations and decisions which followed the recent string of Westminster scandals. Here’s Guido’s run-down of the unfinished business from the past few weeks (and earlier)…

Jared O’Mara: Jared hasn’t been seen in Westminster since the scandal around him erupted in October and he hasn’t voted in the months since. He – or more likely, his whip – is submitting a number of very general written questions and signing the odd EDM to give the impression things are still ticking over. Jared is still under investigation after losing the Labour whip. He’s been off for weeks…

Keith Vaz: An investigation into Vaz by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner is somehow still ongoing after a complaint was made about his rent boys and coke binge in September 2016 (Kathryn Hudson better hurry-up, she’s due to step-down by the end of this year). Vaz hasn’t voted since 18 October, though he did speak in the House last week. He is currently rumoured to be on a trip to the Middle East…

Damian Green: Westminster was on tenterhooks awaiting the release of Sue Gray’s report last week, but it didn’t materialise. It was rumoured to be on the agenda again yesterday but failed to appear. Putting off the inevitable seems to be distracting Damian from his job liaising with the DUP…

Mark Garnier: Remains under Cabinet Office investigation after the Mail on Sunday reported allegations in October that he sent an aide to buy sex toys and called her “sugar tits“. What on earth are they doing, interrogating the sex shop owner?

Kelvin Hopkins: Former Shadow Culture Secretary Kelvin Hopkins lost the Labour whip in November. The party is still investigating a complaint that Hopkins sent inappropriate text messages and made inappropriate physical contact at a student event in 2014. He is voting in line with Labour but hasn’t spoken since 25 October. No update from Labour…

Ivan LewisLabour is still investigating a complaint against Lewis, who denied allegations of sexual harassment after a woman said he touched her leg and invited her to his house when she was 19. He hasn’t voted since 31 October or spoken in the chamber since 25 October. No update…

Dan Poulter: MPs say they haven’t seen Dr Dan around Westminster since the Sunday Times reported allegations against him on 5 November. His office told the BBC he’s “on sick leave”. He last voted on 31 October and hasn’t spoken in the chamber since 11 July. The new Conservative Party disciplinary committee is yet to report its findings… 

Charlie Elphicke: Elphicke’s friends say is still unaware of what allegations have been made against him. He was told in November that allegations had been passed to the police, but there has been no news of any action. In the meantime, Elphicke is still without the whip. The chairman of his association recently backed him…

Stephen CrabbThe former Welsh Secretary is still under investigation by the Conservative Party for allegedly sexting a 19-year-old who applied for a job in his office in 2013. No update…

Chris Pincher: He resigned as a government whip after allegations in the Mail on Sunday that he had un-tucked the shirt of a male Tory. Pincher referred himself to the police. No news as to the outcome…

Daniel KawczynskiReferred to the Tories new disciplinary committee in November following allegations that he pressured a young researcher to go on a date with a businessman ‘older than her father’. Nothing heard yet…

Jack LoprestiA former staff member complained about Lopresti’s behaviour and a probe was launched last week. The complaint came via the Tories’ new code of conduct hotline…

What do Sue Gray, Kathryn Hudson and the Tory and Labour party internal inquiries get up to all day?

Vaz Off International Trade Select Committee

Yesterday’s order paper showed Keith Vaz being discharged from his position on the International Trade select committee, just three months after he joined. Vaz is being replaced by Tom Watson’s old flame Stephanie Peacock. Sources say Vaz hasn’t been seen much around the House recently, and he hasn’t voted since 18 October. A few months back Momentum were coming for his place on the NEC; surely he isn’t now being lined up for a frontbench job? Wonder what he’ll do with his newly free time…

Cop: Porn Wasn’t Extreme But It Was Green Who Watched It

The police forensics officer who examined a computer seized from Damian Green’s parliamentary office has given an interview to the BBC. Neil Lewis says the First Secretary’s claim that it wasn’t him who watched the porn is implausible, and there is “no doubt whatsoever” in his mind that porn was accessed by Green:

“The computer was in Mr Green’s office, on his desk, logged in, his account, his name. In between browsing pornography, he was sending emails from his account, his personal account, reading documents… it was ridiculous to suggest anybody else could have done it.”

Green still denies the claims. Worth noting Lewis also says the material was not extreme – it could be a case of the coverup being worse than the crime here. Could Sue Gray’s inquiry finally release its findings today?

Young Liberals Condemn Cable For Defending Rennard

The LibDems’ youth wing has condemned Vince Cable’s defence of Lord Rennard yesterday. Cable told the BBC he didn’t regret having the pervy peer help out on his campaign and rather unwisely told LibDem women to “move on”. Unsurprisingly that has gone down like a cup of sick with the Young Liberals:

“We at Young Liberals are disappointed to hear Vince Cable defending Lord Rennard’s involvement during his election campaign this year. Alistair Webster QC, who conducted an earlier investigation into the Rennard allegations on behalf of the party, made a statement saying “let me be clear from the outset that the evidence suggests that Lord Rennard’s behaviour has caused distress to a number of women, so much so that they came forward several years after the event in question”.

As part of Young Liberals Policy, Lord Rennard is banned from attending all Young Liberals events, and our members can refuse to work with him without fear of disciplinary action.”

LibDem insiders say the truth is doddery Cable is totally out of touch with the modern world on sexual harassment and doesn’t understand why LibDem women have a problem with Rennard. They say Vince has to be strong-armed into making any critical noises about Rennard and had to be talked down from giving him an official job. LibDems have been depressed by Cable’s tin ear on this issue…

Cable: I Don’t Regret Having Rennard on My Campaign

Vince Cable has told BBC 5 Live’s Emma Barnett that he does not regret having Lord Rennard help out on his campaign in Twickenham in June. Confronted with Guido’s story that Rennard was in Vince’s campaign office on polling day, went leafleting outside Twickenham station and posed for photos with Cable and his constituents, Cable admitted:

“He did come as a volunteer. I had hundreds of volunteers. He’s a party member; he came along and did some canvassing and supported us, as he did with other MPs and candidates. I don’t regret he came as a volunteer. The position is, he’s an ordinary party member, he comes and helps and knocks on doors like hundreds of other people, and he came and supported my campaign.”

Cable also backed Rennard’s continuing LibDem membership, saying the party should “move on”:

“He clearly is the focus of a great deal of critical comment. I want the party to move on… I don’t want every conversation to go back to what happened 10 years ago with him. His position is not a comfortable one, but he is still a party member and I think that’s where it should rest.”

Not sure LibDem women will be particularly impressed at being told to “move on”…

Emma Dent Coad: Give 13 Year-Olds “Explicit” Sex Manuals

Labour MP Emma Dent Coad said “explicit” sex manuals should be given to 13 year-olds to help them “embrace the joys of sex”, Guido can reveal. In a extraordinary letter to The Guardian newspaper, mother of three Dent Coad wrote 13 year-olds should be encouraged to take part in “heavy petting” and taught “the delights of prolonged snogs, slow caresses, fumbling through clothing.” She said:

“Whatever happened to heavy petting? Teenage sex, according to the government, your own editorial and all current debate centres exclusively on penetrative sex. Have we forgotten the delights of prolonged snogs, slow caresses, fumbling through clothing? An explicit manual on heavy petting could be given to all 13-year-olds. Embrace the joys of sex; avoid the dangers.”

Guido has repeatedly put this to Dent Coad over the last two days. She has declined to comment. It’s another Jared O’Mara case – Labour clearly didn’t vet this candidate, and now the people of Kensington have ended up with a fruitcake for an MP…

Top Downing Street Aide Touched My Breast in Number 10

Daisy Goodwin, creator of ITV series Victoria, says a senior Downing Street adviser put his hand on her breast when they met at Number 10 between 2010 and 2016. Goodwin tells the Radio Times the aide was a few years younger than her, so likely to be in his forties:

“The official, who was a few years younger than me, showed me into a room dominated by a portrait of Mrs T and we sat at a table carved, he told me, from one piece of wood.

[…] Read the rest

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