Ian Paisley Jr Suspended From Commons

From the House of Commons standards committee:

Mr Paisley and his family made two visits to Sri Lanka in March/April 2013 and July 2013. These visits were paid for by the Sri Lankan government. Although the precise value of the hospitality offered cannot be precisely calculated, they were of a value significantly in excess of the then registration threshold of £660. (The Daily Telegraph claimed that the cost of the visits was £100,000; Mr Paisley accepts an estimate of about £50,000.) Mr Paisley did not register either visit in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. 

Very strong sanction:

In view of the seriousness of this matter, we recommend that Mr Paisley be suspended from the service of the House for a period of 30 sitting days starting on 4 September 2018. We also require that Mr Paisley register the benefits he received from the Sri Lankan government which will be italicised in the Register to indicate that they are a late entry.

30 sitting days from the 4 September takes us into November. This is a Brexiteer vote in the Commons lost…

Serjeant-at-Arms: Bercow Victim of “Witch Hunt”

The senior official responsible for security and order in the House of Commons has dismissed bullying allegations against John Bercow and said the Speaker is the victim of a “witch hunt”. The extraordinary intervention in defence of beleaguered Bercow by Serjeant-at-Arms Kamal El-Hajji is published in the official Commons mag, The Housethis morning. El-Hajji wrote:

“There has recently been article after article in the daily newspapers containing speculation and accusations regarding Mr Speaker’s code of conduct and the allegedly ‘unprofessional’ way that he treats staff and colleagues working in Parliament. Due to a considerable lack of evidence supporting these allegations, it seems clear to me that there is a witch hunt against him, whether it is coming from previously disgruntled staff members or ex-colleagues trying to settle old scores of some kind.

“…we feel that there is a witch hunt going on trying to discredit Mr Speaker… I felt it’s important to stand up for what is right and to show support and solidarity to someone who has done such a great deal for Parliament and for the country.”

El-Hajji was selected for the job in 2015 by a panel of MPs headed by Bercow – he would not have got the job without the Speaker’s approval. Nice way to pay him back…

El-Hajii’s defence does not address any of the actual bullying allegations, which are extensive. It is in stark contrast to comments made by former Black Rod David Leakey, who said Bercow was unworthy of the office of Speaker. How can bullying and harassment victims have any confidence in Parliament after this display?

UPDATE: A government source condemns the Sarjeant-at-Arms: “He should be neutral in all of this. It’s really beyond unprofessional.” 

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.

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…

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…

Lord Moat: Brexit Only an Interim Decision

Douglas Hogg, the disgraced former Tory minister who filed a £2,000 expenses claim to have his moat cleaned, has tabled his “Stop Brexit” motion in the Lords this afternoon. The amendment, backed by Labour and LibDem Remainers, seeks to allow parliament to control the negotiations, including extending the negotiating process and potentially keeping us in the EU indefinitely. It is a naked attempt by Hogg and other Remain peers to reverse Brexit. As he told the Lords: “At the very best Brexit was only an interim decision”. Left the Commons in disgrace as the poster boy for the expenses scandal, then tried to stop Brexit from the Lords. What a contribution to public life.

Civil Servant Awarded Huge Payout After Baroness Scotland Loses Employment Case

A senior Commonwealth Secretariat civil servant, who was forced to resign during the Baroness Scotland expenses scandal after being accused of leaking to the press, has won his claim for breach of contract against his old employer. Ram Venuprasad said he was “marked out” by Scotland after he complained internally about her shameless spending splurge, which Guido reported in detail at the time. Scotland refused to appear at the tribunal and the Commonwealth Secretariat will now have to give Venuprasad a huge taxpayer-funded payout, which could reach as high as six figures. Baroness Brazen blowing more of your money…

Security Risk ‘Sugar Baby’ Met Cameron in No.10

The security risk civil servant who offered to sell sex to an undercover Daily Mirror journalist was personally introduced to David Cameron in Downing Street, Guido can reveal. The 20 year-old woman, whose identity Guido has decided not to reveal, was praised by civil service bosses and was a poster girl for the fast track scheme. A source says she visited Number 10 on multiple occasions and met Dave there in 2015. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing. Does she know his Pret order too?

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”.[…] Read the rest

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Jeremy Corbyn told by veteran Jewish MP Margaret Hodge…

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