Look who just turned up to the Speaker’s House:
Someone doesn’t appear to be optimistic about the way things are going…
The Speaker has been behaving with almost perfect professionalism all this year. He knows his moment of mortal danger is approaching and is palliating his enemies in the House. But Bad Bercow can’t be kept down. He looked around the chamber this afternoon and saw his old enemy Jesse Norman (No. 14 on the order paper) not in his place. So very early, and well out of the running order, he called him. “Jesse Norman!” Nothing. “Jesse NORMAN! Is he not here?” He wasn’t going to take the chance that Norman had been momentarily delayed and would be in shortly.
Norman was a moving spirit of the Governance committee that humiliated Bercow in the fiasco of the new clerk’s appointment. “Got him!” Bercow would have thought.
The rush of applause that greeted Lindsay Hoyle taking the chair for the Budget debate shows that there is a popular contender for the position. A candidate makes the difference. Although Bercow seems to be carrying all before him, it is still possible to hope.
UPDATE: Guido understands that Norman was slightly delayed by a bicycle puncture.
After a point of order from Tory MP Heather Wheeler, Bercow has apologised for his sexist “washing machine” jibe yesterday about Esther McVey:
“If I caused offence by what I said, I very happy apologise to that Member… It was an off the cuff remark, and may well have been a foolish one, and I apologise for it.”
Video to follow…
John Bercow is facing accusations of sexism after comparing Esther McVey to a domestic appliance. The Standard reports:
He intervened when the former GMTV presenter and Wirral West MP was giving her 14th response during a work and pensions session to a question on mental health. But to the surprise of MPs, Mr Bercow then interjected: “I am reminded of the feeling when one thinks the washing machine will stop — but it does not!”
It led Ealing North Labour MP Stephen Pound to say: “A washing machine metaphor for a woman minister is seldom a good idea. Let’s see how he spins his way out of this one!”
While Angie Bray, Conservative MP for Ealing Central and Acton, also voiced consternation about the Speaker’s comment. “That’s unnecessarily rude. I’m not sure it’s for him to criticise the style in which she chooses to answer her questions,” she said.
Last year Bercow criticised other MPs for being “sexist, snobbish, yobbish” at PMQs. Once again the Speaker falls short of the standards he sets for others…
Warning bells would have gone off early in the Speaker’s head when he heard Michael Fabricant use the date of his accession to his Speaker’s throne. The bells would have become clamorous at the first “but”, and turned into sirens at the words “no longer than nine years”.
“Point of Order, Mr Speaker. You may recall back on 22 June 2009 you were speaking before Parliament and you were talking about Speaker Onslow who was in office for more than 30 years but you said that if you were elected to Parliament, you have given your commitment, Mr Speaker, to serve no longer than nine years in total. And I just wondered – ”
“As has just been pointed out to me by the Acting Clerk whom I know the honourable gentleman rightly respects, this is not a point of order. I’ve nothing to add and we’ll leave it there . . . .”
Not a point of order, so sit down?
Members get up on points of order to have a chat with the Speaker, to wish him happy birthday, to praise him for his wise and intelligent chairing. He can listen to that indefinitely. Here comes a chance to confirm on the record that he will serve for no longer than nine years – as promised – and he cuts the questioner off.
This is starting to firm up whispers Guido hears that Bercow has no plans to stand down after nine years, and that his intention is to serve the whole of the next Parliament.
Fabricant tweeted: “I thought it was rather cowardly the way the Speaker blamed the Acting Clerk for cutting me off.”
Did the Clerk spontaneously advise the Speaker this wasn’t a point of order?
Or was he prompted to do so by the Speaker?
Or did he in fact offer the advice at all?
Guido has a call in to Acting Clerk David Natzler to seek the answer to these interesting questions…
From Her Majesty’s Super Dooper Loyal Torygraph this morning:
SIR – The Speaker of the House of Commons wants to modernise voting in elections through the introduction of online voting in 2020.With his support, the election of all the deputy speakers as well as most chairs and membership of select committees is now done by secret ballot. However, despite efforts to introduce a secret ballot for the re-election of the Commons Speaker, he has rejected and blocked this. This suggests that his modernising zeal does not extend to matters that might affect his self-interest.
Simon Burns MP (Con)
He’s not Happy…
Statement after PMQs is apparently not for Bercow to grovel, despite his ‘pause’ in appointing a new Commons Clerk becoming permanent. Delicious.
The Speaker’s attempt to stitch up the Commons clerk job for disgraced Aussie Carol Mills is officially over. A report by the House of Commons Governance Committee published today finds that “the ‘paused’ recruitment process for Clerk of the House/Chief Executive should be formally terminated”, ruling the Clerk job should be split:
“The Clerk of the House should remain Head of the House service, appointed by Letters Patent, but should not also be titled Chief Executive; A new post of Director General of the House of Commons should be created, reporting to the Clerk but with clearly delineated autonomous responsibilities for the delivery of services”
They conclude: “we propose new recruitment processes for the Clerk of the House and the Director General of the House of Commons which are in line with modern recruitment practice”. Jack Straw did not want the report to be critical of the Speaker, he wants the reforms to command wide support and be implemented, they almost certainly will. This is implicitly as much of a slap down for the Speaker the Governance Committee was ever going to give…
John Bercow’s choice for Commons clerk is facing disgrace Down Under after a committee found she provided them with “contradictory” and “misleading” information. A scathing report from the Aussie parliament’s Privileges Committee today condemns Carol Mills for “a serious breach of accountability and probity”, finding her testimony over when exactly she knew CCTV cameras had been used to investigate leaks to be untrue.
“The submission … documents cast considerable doubt upon the evidence given by the secretary… The committee has not been able to reconcile the evidence given at the estimates hearing with the submission and documents which Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) has subsequently provided. There should be no doubt … that the committee considers [this] … to be a serious breach of accountability and probity.”
Mills has gone to ground and is refusing to give comment to the Australian media. ABC reports her future is now “uncertain” and “under a cloud”. Today’s findings will mean her future does not lie in Westminster…
UPDATE: Senator John Faulkner, in speech given in the Senate yesterday described the department run by Carol Mills in these terms:
A parliamentary department should be an exemplar. But DPS is not.
The findings of this damning report, that the Secretary:
- has misled Senate Committees, and
- has given contradictory evidence, and
- has overseen the unauthorised use of CCTV,
reinforces my view – publicly stated – that DPS is the worst run government department in the Commonwealth of Australia.
A not so glowing reference for Bercow’s choice of Clerk…
Readers will remember John Bercow’s former spinner Justine McGuinness, who was forced to resign after Guido revealed her bizarre anti-Tory rant at LibDem conference. Where is she now? McGuinness is in the running to replace the outgoing Jeremy Browne as MP for Taunton Deane, last night making the shortlist to be the new LibDem candidate for the seat. If Justine makes it back to parliament, the “completely impartial” Speaker will treat her as he would any other MP, won’t he?
An antipodean co-conspirator draws Guido’s attention to Australian Senator John Faulkner’s damning assessment yesterday of John Bercow’s choice for the next Commons clerk. Carol Mills was up before a scrutiny committee to explain why the records of $30,000 worth of photographs that she commissioned from a photographer, who happened to be her neighbour, have gone missing. Now Faulkner is accusing Mills of telling porkies, telling the Australian parliament:
“The Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services has stated at estimates that she knew the photographer—Anne Zahalka—and in fact they live in the same street. At the most recent estimates round, I asked the DPS secretary, Ms Mills, whether this raised the obvious question of either a conflict of interest or a perceived conflict of interest?’ In response, the secretary informed the committee: “I did not interfere, involve myself or influence in any way any of that process.”
…Last night, the committee was informed by DPS, despite Ms Mills’s earlier assurances, that she was involved in the final decision to contract Anne Zahalka. Despite her October statement to the committee that she ‘did not interfere, involve myself or influence in any way any of that process’, she actually signed off the contract offered to Anne Zahalka. According to evidence from DPS officers to the committee, the secretary was being briefed and kept in the loop about the photography contract. The secretary also signed off on a decision relating to some of the commercial aspects of the arrangements with Ms Zahalka.”
Faulkner says this “raises very serious questions about the probity and transparency” of Mills’ actions. How did this person even come close to taking over Parliament?
The Canberra Caterer is covering herself in glory again down under. Speaker Bercow’s preferred choice to be the next Clerk of the Commons has once again been hauled in front of a scrutiny committee of the Australian parliament to explain her actions.
“I feel that the standards in the department have not met the expectations that I would’ve had coming into the department nor have we been able to fix them as quickly as I would’ve liked,” says Carol Mills in regard to why the records of $30,000 worth of photographs that she commissioned from a photographer, who happened to be her neighbour, have gone missing. “It’s regrettable that we still have gaps but we’re certainly striving hard to improve systems and we’ll take any learnings… very seriously,” claimed Mills in pure management speak.
What was it about this incompetent pen pusher that so captivated the Speaker’s attention?
Compare and contrast the Speaker’s own visit Down Under last month, when he only managed to half fill a small side room, to the footage of Dave stuffing the main chamber to the the rafters today. Must have hurt….
Not content with telling off Theresa May earlier in the week, the Speaker is now very upset with Dave for announcing his new terror laws in Australia rather than in parliament:
“What people want is straight-dealing, honouring of commitments and respect for parliament.”
Ask the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to investigate an MP’s pre-2010 expenses and here is the answer you get:
“All records relating to expenses claims before 2010 have now been destroyed. No unredacted information is now available here…”
A committee headed by the Bercow has authorised the shredding of all the evidence. Another win for the ‘reforming Speaker’.
What happened to the ‘reforming Speaker’ who said in 2009, upon his election:
‘The public perception of the way we operate is so negative that it is necessary to accept a wholesale, fundamental and irrevocable change. There has to be some short-term pain in order to achieve the long-term gain of a recovery in the standing of the Commons.’
It’s business as usual.
This summer the Speaker of the House of Commons netted £7,510 in donations from the Lawn Tennis Association. It’s a nice perk of the job for John Bercow to sit in the Royal Box at Wimbledon and attend two other tennis matches with no expense spared. It was equally nice of the impartial and above reproach Speaker to return the favour…
“I think the record shows that as Speaker I have taken the lead in cleaning up politics”, said Bercow in 2010. Yet, eleven days ago he took the extraordinary step of intervening in a Commons debate in order to encourage the building of more tennis courts, and promote – by name – the LTA. His donor:
Oliver Colvile: The Government passed the Localism Act more than two years ago and Plymouth city council, which is controlled by the Labour party, has identified Collins park tennis courts as surplus to requirements and might well seek to build on them. It claims that it has not made a decision, but has published a planning brief. Please may we have a debate on the progress that local communities and neighbourhoods have made in protecting green inner-city areas such as mine in Plymouth?
Mr Hague: I think a debate on these issues would be most welcome to illustrate the opportunities that are now open. The Localism Act 2011 gives communities the opportunity to list valuable local assets and so far some 1,500 assets of community value have been listed. Green spaces are the second most popular listing, along with parks, village greens, open land and even, in one case, a mountain. I encourage my hon. Friend to pursue a debate on these matters.
Mr Speaker: Of course, we cannot get involved in individual planning applications, but I hope that I can be forgiven for saying that we need more tennis courts in this country and not fewer. That is a matter about which I feel very strongly, as does the Lawn Tennis Association and a great many other people besides.
The Speaker is meant to be above the fray, whiter than white and a shining example to all MPs. Any other MP caught pushing the cause of a donor without at least giving a nod to their register of interests would be hauled up to give a grovelling apology to the House.
Should Bercow be allowed to swerve the rules like this?
Intriguingly, the now sacked Speaker’s spokesman Justine McGuinness was the only other person who was present at every meeting regarding the abortive appointment of a new Clerk of the Commons.
She’s described by parliamentary sources as “a key internal enforcer” for the Speaker.
He’s thrown his right-hand woman to the wolves.
UPDATE: The Tories have asked the Speaker to donate McGuinness’ payoff to charity:
Following Guido’s story yesterday about the Speaker’s spokesman abandoning her impartiality and attacking the Tories:
The spokesman needed a spokesman, and now she’s gone…
UPDATE: Here is the statement from the Commons:
[…] Read the rest
“After a year in post Justine McGuinness has offered her resignation to the Speaker, which has been accepted.