William Hague’s shabby and botched attempt to unseat a great reforming Speaker

John Bercow, the Speaker  Image credit: bbc

John Bercow, the Speaker
Image credit: bbc

The Speaker of the House of Commons is someone the public recognise. Every week while Parliament sits he is seen on TV controlling the bear garden that is  Prime Minister’s Questions.. His role is like a strict disciplinarian headmaster trying to control overgrown adolescents shouting down and jeering their opponents like kids in a school playground.

But John Bercow is more than that. He is probably the best known speaker since  former Tiller girl Betty Boothroyd  became a hit in the United States with her unique smack of authority in a British Parliament. And he has made big changes that are good news for democracy and the public.

It was therefore deeply depressing  early on Wednesday evening when I was rung up by a very trusted source to tell me about a shabby plan to unseat him by changing the election rules for the next Parliament in May without people realising what was going on.

The master minds behind the plans appear to be William Hague, leader of the House and Michael Gove, the chief whip aided and abetted by Greg Hands, the deputy chief whip, and Cameron’s nasty Aussie election strategist, Lynton Crosby. The Liberal Democrats under Nick Clegg also agreed to the ruse.

My source told me that throughout the day Tory MPs had been sent three texts by the whips designed to ambush Labour and push through an arcane rule change in Parliament which would mean curtains for Bercow. It told them that a plan to send hundreds of Tory MPs to canvass voters in the marginal seat of Hastings and Rye, held by Amber Rudd, had been cancelled and they all had to turn up  on a three-line whip ( Parliament’s on pain of death) to hear Lynton Crosby outline their general election strategy in Portcullis House at 10.30 am.

What it didn’t tell them was that the order of business had been changed at the last moment and an obscure report changing the election rules of the next Speaker – traditionally elected by a public vote – would be debated in the Chamber. They proposed to change this to a secret ballot so ministers could get rid of him without their votes being recorded.The plan was for the  debate to take place while Crosby was briefing Mps  and the vote to take place at 11.30 am just as all Tory MPs  were leaving the briefing. They would march in the lobby to vote on William Hague’s motion without really knowing what it said. And Labour MPs would know nothing about the shabby deal – most having returned to their constituencies- and government would  have got rid of Bercow.

But then my trusted source got to work – and I tweeted and briefed a few papers and broadcasters- and it began to unravel. For a start the very independent minded  Tory MP, Charles Walker, who chaired the procedure committee found his report had been hijacked by Hague. Furthermore it did not recommend voting changes in the election of a Speaker –  the two Tories on the committee who wanted it  – Sir Roger Gale and James Gray  – had been soundly defeated.  They then agreed to accept  the status quo  and the report was unanimous agreed. So Hague was being dishonest as well as sneaky. by proposing the change as it was not recommended by the report. And James Gray, to his credit, appeared so disgusted with Hague’s behaviour that he voted against the government.

Then it is clear that Angela Eagle,shadow leader of the house got wind of the deal and started summoning Labour Mps back and stopping the rest leaving. And Mr Bercow realised what the plot was about and suddenly granted two urgent questions on matters of policy which delayed the timing of the debate and the vote.

By the time it was debated yesterday the sneaky little proposal fell apart as there enough Labour Mps back in Parliament and enough Tories and Liberal Democrats rebelled to defeat the government by 26 votes.. But it had been a close run thing. Some 23 Conservative and 10 Liberal  Democrat MPs revolted. Scroll down this to see the debate and vote.

This is scandalous for two reasons. Parliament’s committee of MPs are independent of government and had proposed a completely different motion to be debated.. Hague had no business changing the findings of an independent committee.

And  Bercow himself is a good thing. He has made ministers far more accountable for their actions by forcing them to come to Parliament to justify decisions – on one issue we have had on this blog Theresa May has been far more scrutinised by MPs on the  child sex abuse inquiry because Bercow forced her to come to Parliament  by accepting urgent questions from MPs.

The coalition ministers hated this aspect of democracy because it was last minute and inconvenient They much preferred a  supine Parliament. On that issue alone people should think about how they cast their vote on May 7.

Class War 2014: The Rich Kids of Snapchat

Bullingdon : The earlier generation before Rich Kids on Snapshot

Bullingdon : The earlier generation before Rich Kids of Snapshot

If ever David Cameron’s claim that we are all in it together needed to be proved false, look at a site on Facebook called the Rich Kids of Snapchat.

Set up by a 17 year old British public schoolboy and liked by 244,000 people this site celebrates the life style of the super rich public schoolboys – the new generation expecting to run Britain in a decade or so.

Far from having any concern for the rest of us, this ” fun ” site worships money, fast cars, Gucci, luxury yachts and private jets,champagne and has an unhealthy interest in guns.

It is virtually the calling card of the new ” Bullingdon Club ” and the kids know they are the new ” boss class ” – the future generation of Tory Cabinet ministers, entrepreneurs and flashy businessmen and bankers. And some will have the vote in next year’s election,

Among the fun pictures are kids using £50 notes as toilet paper, £20 notes for tablecloths, handling guns to protect their estates from the ” peasants”, and commuting from home to public school by private helicopters or showing they have a £10m private bank account at Coutts.

Not surprisingly this has produced a reaction across the net with people calling for the site to be taken down, and a spate of hostile comments – sometimes producing ripostes like warning people to shut up as they will be their boss in future life.

More seriously as the Inforrm blog reveals  these antics have posed problems for the more mature seriously rich parents who wish to hide their opulent life styles from the rest of us and pretend “we are all in it together”.

As the Inforrm blog says : ” The consequences could be very serious for those wealthy teens, and their families, where potentially inflammatory images appear which include identifying information such as faces, car registrations and locations.

One 19 year old, who frequently posted about his lavish lifestyle and who was featured on Tumblr site “Rich Kids on Instagram”, has already run into trouble, having had several luxury cars from his father’s rental business subsequently set alight by vandals, causing over £500,000 worth of damage to his father’s business.

Another featured ‘rich kid’ was Alexa Dell, daughter of Dell Inc. CEO Michael Dell, who posted an image of her brother tucking into a feast onboard a private jet, bound for Fiji. She also used her Twitter account to regularly post details of her location, complete with GPS location tagging- somewhat undermining the annual US$2.7 million her father reportedly spends on family security.  Upon discovering this, Alexa’s account was removed and her image has been taken down.”

The blog rightly points out that in an era of unemployment and  poverty where ceo’s have made people redundant  this  can be inflammatory.

It rightly adds:” a teen bragging about the lavish lifestyle of his or her CEO parent who has recently made redundancies or been the recipient of a sizeable bonus can easily catch the eye of a journalist on the hunt for a story – as can any images posted by a naive child who has a parent in the public eye. ”

But to me the whole site seems symptomatic of a yawning divide opening up in the UK and the last thing I would want to see is it taken down. Such antics provide the perfect foil to attack the wealthy Lynton Crosby and the image he wants the Tories to present to the electorate of the ruling class in the next election. Spoilt brats revealing themselves for what they really are!

Meanwhile in true entrepreneurial fashion the site is up for sale by its 17 year old owner. He has been offered $150,000 by an American but might let it go for a mere $40,000 to a Brit with spare cash from his pocket money.












Crosby Textor reaction: You’re just a two bit blog

managing director and business partner of Lynton Crosby

managing director and business partner of Lynton Crosby

Swift  and arrogant reaction to a rather critical piece today on Lynton Crosby’s  forthcoming libel action in Australia against Labor defence material minister, Mike Kelly.

A splendid exchange between Tom Watson and Mark Textor on Twitter followed publication.

  1. .@tom_watson pity about gross factual errors herein. Quoting 2 bit blogs now Tom? Poor old thing. Nite!

    3:04 PM – 21 Jul 13 ·
  2. @markatextor Oh, and if you don’t know the author of the blog, he’s @davidhencke. He’s very well known in the UK. Have a nice day now.

  3. @tom_watson @davidhencke couldn’t even get the name right. Lolz!

     3:11 PM – 21 Jul 13 ·
    Tweet text

  4. @markatextor I’ll let you get some sleep. It sounds like you need it.

Evidently Mark Textor’s sole objection to the piece was an error I made – which I am happy to apologise and have already corrected – mispelling his name –  substituting an e for an o.

The managing director modestly describes himself on the Crosby Textor website “As Australia ‘s most successful pollster and campaign strategist, Mark Textor is acknowledged as the most astute judge of public sentiment in Australia today.”

Indeed he may well be but I hope his clients who pay him millions get better advice than he gives himself. All I would say is beware of two bit blogs they sometimes can bite.

Will Lynton Crosby be downed by a man who felled a Somali warlord?

Official Australian Government portrait of Mike Kelly MP, defence materials minister and twitter libel fighter

Official Australian Government portrait of Mike Kelly MP.

A perfect storm is gathering for David Cameron in the autumn. His Downing Street spin doctor friend Andy Coulson and Rupert Murdoch’s favourite News International employee, Rebekah Brooks, are facing trial for alleged phone hacking .Now Lynton Crosby, his Tory election strategist, looks likely to be embroiled in a libel action in Australia while the country is engulfed in an election campaign.

The two cases will overlap and will mean a very interesting examination of Crosby and partner Mark Textor’s election disputed ” push  polling” techniques to denigrate Labor opponents and might well provide a useful insight into how Crosby will try to get Cameron re-elected.

The case has been bought by Crosby and Textor against a Labor minister, Mike Kelly for tweeting as the Sydney Morning Herald  reported “”always grate [sic] to hear moralizing from Crosby, Textor, Steal and Gnash. The mob who introduced push polling to Aus.” This led to a libel suit on the grounds that it damaged their business and ” push polling ” is meant to be illegal in Australia. They also deny doing it.

They seek aggravated damages because they say Dr Kelly failed to apologise, used sensational language and published the tweet knowing it was false, or with reckless indifference to its truth or falsity.

But what is really interesting is the man Crosby is fighting. He is not the guy  you might think is an obvious Labor or Labour politician.

No the defence materials minister is something else. Crosby is taking on an Australian military hero – a rare case of a soldier turned politician. He has a  decorated military record. He has worked with the UN peacekeepers in Timor and hostage rescue in Kenya.

He was involved in the legal prosecution of Saddam Hussein and the execution of a Somali warlord after he was convicted of 31 murders. He also served with the International Red Cross in Bosnia.

The warlord  Hussan Gutaale Abdul  had attacked and killed 16 aid workers and repeatedly driven an armoured car into emaciated refugees awaiting food distribution He was arrested by an Australian patrol, held in a cage at Baidoa airport and later flown to Mogadishu to be held by US forces. He was found guilty of 31 counts of murder.

When the death penalty was pronounced  Gutaale physically attacked Kelly and Kelly wrestled him along the road to his place of execution.

For his bravery,Kelly became a Member of the Order of Australia for ” exceptional service or performance of duty”

Kelly told the Sydney Daily Telegraph :

“There was quite a bit of scuffling. I got attacked. He had always threatened he was going to take me with him if he went down. He jumped on me in the court room. I had to use my rifle to subdue him by buttstroking.”

He said a price was put on his head as a result of his work to bring warlords to justice: “There were continuous radio broadcasts calling on people to do all sorts of nasty things, to disembowel me. It wasn’t an office job.”

The cancerous Lynton crosby

The politically “cancerous ” Lynton Crosby

Crosby of course is none of these things. His previous life as a farmer’s son is sketchy but his main interest at Crosby Textor the company co founded with MarkTextor, is pretty vicious campaigning for right wing parties in Australia and the UK. Their client list is secret but the ones that have been disclosed involve tobacco, fracking and banking.

I don’t know who is going to win the libel action. But if I had a choice of buddies it would be Kelly over Crosby.

Kelly is brave and  has  been  fighting against evil dictators and war lords and trying to bring peace and stability to the world. Indeed he might deserve a place in the Imperial War Museum in Lord Ashcroft’s  roll call of military heroes.

Crosby seems to be solely motivated by money and is filling his boots with gold from a product that will  spread cancer world wide. No wonder David Cameron can’t give a straight answer to journalists about his involvement in dropping plain packaging for cigarettes.

Crosby is a cancer in the heart of Whitehall. He and Textor’s contribution to the world is to help increase cancer rates and damage the environment  for their own  private gain through a company that hides its clients from public view.

Revealed: Cameron’s nudge,nudge survey to woo marginal voters

David Cameron outside Downing Street. Picture courtesy: Guardian

David Cameron outside Downing Street. Picture courtesy: Guardian

David Cameron has started his re-election campaign by sending out a private questionnaire and personal letter to targeted voters in marginal seats with leading questions on cutting benefits,encouraging immigration and freezing petrol. My story is in this week’s Tribune magazine.

The survey bears all the “dog whistle”  hallmarks of libel trigger happy Lynton Crosby and the execution of Giles Kenningham, now at Conservative Central Office.

The survey also wants to get hold of e-mail addresses of all the participants for future use by Conservative Central Office. It purports to be a simple request to evaluate how the government is doing to help families and asking for advice on how to continue existing policies. The tenor of Cameron’s letter is couched in party political terms.

He says: “Even with the enormous deficit we inherited from the last government forcing us to make tough decisions in every area, I am committed to doing everything possible to help families with the cost of living in these tough times. So I’d like to know what you think about some of the steps we’ve taken so far – and I’d like to know your ideas about what more the Government can do to help families like yours.”

cameron's survey letter to marginal voters

cameron’s survey letter to marginal voters: click on it to read better

There follows a detailed questionnaire on the economy, welfare benefits. And direct questions on attitudes to life  and to political leadership – such as whether or not you believe in rugged individualism without the support of state and that people can get on regardless of  background or not.

The choice is between “How well I do in life is first and foremost down to me. OR How well I do in life is primarily decided by forces outside of my control.”

The main economic question is slanted against Labour saying : “Even before the banking crisis hit in 2008, the UK was borrowing too much money to pay for public services and public sector jobs that, in the long-term, we couldn’t afford.” Some of the choices are extraordinary – such as a question asking whether a two tier benefit system should be introduced – and existing benefits cut by more than half for those who have only just started paying tax and national insurance.

Voters are invited to put in figures for benefit levels, new caps for the “bedroom tax”,and to comment on evicting council tenants who earn too much money.

David Cameron’s and Ed Miliband’s leadership the questionnaire proposes a dramatic choice. People are asked to choose between “We need leaders who are prepared to listen and to do what people really want” or “We need leaders who will stick to what they believe is right, even if it is unpopular.”

Three rather different questions are asked on immigration, same sex marriage and education  – one definitely pre UKIP surge. The immigration question is ” On balance immigration has been a good thing for this country”. The other on education looks like it had been inserted by Michael Gove: ” Educational standards have been steadily improving in recent years”.

Altogether a very interesting disclosure from a Labour marginal seat in the Midlands. One wonders what that Lynton Crosby  fan (NOT) @LordAshcroft would make of it for fairness and as a tactic. It does suggest Labour need to wake up and small the coffee on campaigning double-quick and start working hard in these marginal seats.

welfare questions - click on it to read it better

welfare questions – click on it to read it better

Lynton Crosby launches Twitter libel action against Labor

Lynton Crosby: Latest figure to pursue Twitter Libel Action. Pic credit: BBC

Lynton Crosby: Latest figure to pursue Twitter libel Action. Pic credit: BBC

Just as David Cameron could do without any further distractions  Lynton Crosby, his top strategist for the 2015 general election,  is about to become embroiled in a lengthy and costly libel action 10,500 miles away from Downing Street.

Mr Crosby the aggressive campaign adviser  who helped Boris Johnson win the last London mayoral election  and well-known for his ” dog whistle” techniques to woo voters is about to cause a furore in Australia in a trial that a judge says is already ” heading down the path of a famous defamation.”

He is the latest top figure after Lord McAlpine, the former Tory treasurer, decided to sue people for Twitter defamation ( in his case wrongly accused of being a paedophile), to take his chances in the courts. The interesting thing is this case is that it centres around his very election techniques that helped right wingers win power in Australia and could become controversial over here. He is also a tweeter himself (@LyntonKCrosby)- at least while he was helping Boris Johnson’s campaign. Indeed his tweets were quite sharp about the BBC, and the Left during the campaign and he also got into trouble (not on Twitter) over describing the Muslim voter in uncharitable terms – something which he denies.

The full story of the impending libel action is revealed in some detail on the Inforrm blog (http://inforrm.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/news-conservative-strategist-lynton-crosby-and-an-australian-twitter-libel-action/) .

Official Australian Government portrait of Mike Kelly MP, defence materials minister and twitter libel fighter

Official Australian Government portrait of Mike Kelly MP, defence materials minister and twitter libel fighter

The man being sued by Crosby is an Australian defence minister, Mike Kelly ( ‏@MikeKellyMP)

in the Labor government who tweeted that Mr Crosby had used unethical polling techniques to help win the election for the Liberals. The damaging tweet said: ““always grate [sic] to hear moralizing from Crosby, Textor, Steal and Gnash. The mob who introduced push polling to Aus.”

Crosby took exception to this as push polling is illegal in Australia  as it attempts to change people’s opinions by pretending to conduct a neutral poll. As Inforrm reports ”  Crosby  and his company claimed his opponents said he ” had introduced a polling technique that had the deceitful purpose of deliberately influencing voters with material slanted against the opposing candidate.  They seek aggravated damages because they say Dr Kelly failed to apologise, used sensational language and published the tweet knowing it was false, or with reckless indifference to its truth or falsity.”

But Mr Kelly is not backing down despite losing an attempt to have the libel thrown out and being ordered to pay $100,000 costs. He has got the financial backing of the New South Wales Labor Party and both sides will be back in court on June 7.

So Mr Crosby is about to be a bit distracted just when he should be advising Cameron on how to handle the rise of Ukip. But there is also interesting side to this story. Will Crosby launch similar type actions against prominent Labour tweeters here – if they dare attack him during the 2015 election campaign. Will Tom Watson, Labour’s campaign manager,a prolific tweeter and man prepared to take on the wrath of Murdoch, find himself in the centre of a fresh row.

Whatever happens there no seems a much bigger chance of what  former party Tory deputy chairman @LordAshcroft tweeted only a week ago ( “Lynton Crosby becoming the story. Dirty linen/public. Whatever the merits not good for the Tories.” This was not about this story but the blogosphere could be about to get a lot more controversial, nastier and dangerous during the 2015 election.