Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bringing Sylvia to Heal

Click on the image to enlarge

Sylvia Heal is a Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. She is meant to be politically impartial. But the above email puts this into doubt. Her House of Commons assisant, Phil Harris, has used his parliamentary email to urge Labour Party members in the Halesowen constituency to book tickets for a Cameron Direct meeting "to give him some difficult questions".

Dear Member attached are details of the visit by David Cameron this Friday. If any of you are available to apply for tickets please can you. So that there is a mixed audience that may give him some difficult questions.

Sylvia Heal now has some difficult questions to answer herself. Like what is her parliamentary assistant doing using his parliamentary email address to email Labour Party members in this manner?


Anonymous said...

I used to think that Senator McCarthy was a nut job. I'm now beginning to think he was on to something.

We need a McCarthyist purge. Who will step up to the plate?

Not a sheep said...

Just six months before we can clean up politics in this country.

JuliaM said...

Isn't it just possible that he did this entirely off his own back, and she knew nothing about it?

strapworld said...

Well, I do hope someone will ask Cameron why he still has people like Maude and Letwin advising him.

Why he is making statements without ensuring they are totally correct!

Why, it is reported, that he intends to run his cabinet in a Blair like manner. Can we ever have a return of CABINET government and not a country run by an inner cabal (which amazingly includes Maude and Letwin)?

Surely, Mr Dale, an Open evening means anyone, doesn't it? therefore I cannot see anything wrong with the Labour party wanting to be in attendance.

If the speaker and the assistants are supposed to be a political, perhaps that job should be done by Civil Servants.

cassandra said...

Aaaah but David Cameron DOES have some extremely difficult questions to answer.
It is to be noted that the evasions and long silences about the huge difficulties facing the UK cannot be spun or ignored or fobbed off.
The silence from Mr Cameron on some issues is deafening, we are facing an energy supply disaster shortly and yet a silence descends, there is a scandal of epic proportions about the supposed science behind global warming that much of Tory economic and environmental policies are based around and again the silence is complete.
Is Cameron waiting for his pet eco zealot Zac to give him a cover story? Is he hoping the scandal will die so he doesnt have to actually lead his party like a leader should?
Its clear that Cameron is hoping to ride to power on the back of the publics hatred of Brown and his third rate team no marks, I hope people are invited to ask him some extremely hard questions!

JuliaM said...

"Is Cameron waiting for his pet eco zealot Zac to give him a cover story? Is he hoping the scandal will die so he doesnt have to actually lead his party like a leader should?"

'Yes' and 'yes' would be my guess...

Of course, he can't really lay into the government for swallowing whole the lies of the watermelons when he himself has done the same, when it suited him.

How long before he hugs another husky, you think?

Unsworth said...

@ Strapworld

"If the speaker and the assistants are supposed to be a political, perhaps that job should be done by Civil Servants."

And the Civil Service is truly apolitical? Hilarious!

Are you suggesting that the Speaker should be appointed by the Civil Service?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Iain, I completely disagree with you -

Deputy Speakers are impartial in Westminster but remain party policians in their constituencies - I explain further in my blog.

As to the email - could it simply be a mistake? The email itself is not so overtly partisan ... and the event is both partisan and intended to be attended by members of other parties and none. Surely this is a compliment to DC for the perceived effectiveness of these events and an event that promotes our party?

Unsworth said...

@ Julia M

I guess it is. But she's his boss and she should be - at the very least - inviting him in for an interview without coffee, if he's doing this sort of thing.

Both he and she should know that servants of the House are not allowed to act on behalf of or in the interests of any political party.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear Strap. Tell you what lets vote John Redwood in as Party Leader with Bill Cash as Deputy and settle down to 5 more years of Gordon Brown.

I would have thought that it would not need Labour to publicize CD meetings - they have been happening for ages. When did Brown last hold one.

Hamish said...

I completely agree with Evan Price.
This was a poor post, starting with the abysmal title.

Unsworth said...

@ Evan Price

"Deputy Speakers are impartial in Westminster........."

How do you know? Any evidence of this impatiality?

strapworld said...

Unsworth you make my case. No speaker can be apolitical. It is an imposibility. One can be impartial yes but not apolitical.

Tevorsden. For goodness sake man, take your rose tinted spectacles off and just see Cameron for what he is. Read the good sense
Cassandra writes. Just think about it.

Your loyalty may impress some but it certainly depresses me! It is straight from the "My dad voted labour and I always vote labour" mindset!

Cameron has not answered anything yet. His big EU referendum policy has proved to have been a sick joke.

His promise to bring back many of the issues that we have handed over to the EU, has been shown to be a worthless gesture.

He has said that he will never allow an IN or OUT referendum. So he has removed any negotiating power he could have had!

Then we have the report, today, that he has the inner cabal running above the shadow cabinet. That he does not have debates within the shadow cabinet and that is how he intends to run Government.

That is why I mentioned, earlier,
my concern that we will continue to have a cabal running this country.

He will prove to be as weak as Brown. We have no political leaders in this country anymore. Just weak, vain politicians.

And we have people like Trevorsden who will not criticise.

I think all the opposition need do is have a poster of a tin of paint with Cameron's face thereon with the slogan " Will NOT do what it says on the tin"

Shamik Das said...

You're being a little naive Iain! As Evan said, all the deputy speakers were elected on a party tickets - Sylvia alone was twice re-elected on a Labour, not a Deputy Speaker, mandate, and she remains a member of the party.

What might be worth exploring is researchers using Parliamentary time and facilities for party political purposes, but as all parties' researchers, and I mean all, do this, there's little chance of that ever happening.

I mean, if you become an MP, will you ensure your staff do only constituency-related stuff when they're at their desk in Parliament?!

Kate j Norden said...

(I appreciated the Heel pun). Difficult questions might produce edifying answers and should be asked of all parties, shirley this is more important than how the questions got to be asked.

Unsworth said...


I take it that you think that Deputy Speakers should be politically biased then.

Who elects these people and what are they elected to do and be?

It's not naive, it's an expectation of honesty and personal integrity. Or do we simply accept that corruption is the norm?

Shamik Das said...

That's quite a leap you've made there Unsworth. A member of her staff has used his Parliamentary email to members of the Labour party in Labour MP Sylvia Heal's constituency asking them to apply for tickets to see David Cameron so that "there is a mixed audience that may give him some difficult questions".

How is this corruption?

If you have any evidence that she has acted improperly in her duties as Deputy Speaker you should put up...

Unsworth said...

@ Shamik

"A member of her staff has used his Parliamentary email to members of the Labour party".

That is precisely what is corrupt. He used his
Parliamentary e-mail to indulge in an overtly politically biased act. Had he used another e-mail address in his own time at his own expense that might have been another matter. Even so, all parliamentary officials are obliged not to act in a partisan manner - nor to appear to do so.

Harris is not employed as a Labour party official. He is employed to act as her assistant in carrying out the task of Deputy Speaker, a position which is supposed to be politically neutral. Or do you suggest that all staff who work for Deputy Speakers should simply to act in accordance with their own or their bosses' politicial allegiances?

Clearly you do not understand the profound difference between the two distinct roles and responsibilities.

Penfold said...

I don't know about a McCarthyist purge....Hawkeye said...08:22........
rather the adoption of the anti-Cathars stance of the French kings.
Alleged to have said kill them all God will sort them out afterwards and will weed the faithful from the bad.
The Romanians had the right idea with Nicu and if we can adopt and widen......

DespairingLiberal said...

Isn't this precisely what several previous Speakers were accused of and correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there some sort of H of C convention that a Speakers / Deput Speaker's Commons Office political staff can organise politics in their own constituencies?

I suspect this is may be (not the only by a long shot) an example of the supposed political "expertise" of Master Dale being a little less comprehensive than one might prefer in a "leading" British political commentator who is much in demand on TV.

DespairingLiberal said...

I have checked the rules of the H of C governing Speaker's parliamentary activities and constituency responsibilities and this posting is a complete mistake by Iain Dale.

There is one of two possibilities in relation to this posting.

(1) Iain Dale knows the rules perfectly well and is attempting to raise this complete non-issue, smearing Sylvia Heal on the fly in a casual, callous way.


(2) Iain Dale does not know some very well-understood principles of the operations of the House of Commons.

Either way, it raises severe doubts about the credibility and decency of this blogger.

I suggest a fulsome apology by you is needed Iain.

If (1) is the reason why you posted this, why today?

Is it some sort of bizarre plotted distraction to some news about the Tories you don't want to discuss?

Span Ows said...

I would think DC would welcome any questions: he has had tough ones before and has almost always handled it well - coming out better than he went in; I say 'almost' as there are bound to be exceptions but of the few meetings I've seen (video) he has been supremely confident and always answered well.

Iain Dale said...

How strange you dont feel the need to share those rules with us DL. Up to your old tricks again?

So you think it is OK for someone who works for the Deputy Speaker to stir up party political trouble using parliamentary email, do you?

I don't.

Unsworth said...

@ Despairing Liberal

1. So we just take your word for it? Not on the basis of past experiences.

2. Where are these 'rules' enshrined - and available for public scrutiny?

Never mind 'convention'. 'Convention' is what led to a whole raft of very nasty goings-on - particularly with regard to selction of Speakers and, of course, Expenses.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Iain or I am being naive ...

The relevant conventions are (1) that the Speaker is completely impartial - although arguments about that impartiality go back to the end of the 19th Century when, if memory serves me right, Liberal and Tory parties voted on party lines to elect a speaker - and even back to the reign of both Charles's.

The result is that the Conservatives have a tradition of not standing against the Speaker when he is seeking reelection - I believe that in recent decades, the other parties (not the SNP) have followed this tradition too.

Deputy Speakers are, by contrast, supposed to be impartial when in the House ... but remain on party tickets and partisan in their constituencies.

Yes, the HoC assistance may have been wanting to stir things up a bit, but isn't that part of the rough and tumble of politics?

DespairingLiberal said...

Iain, I referred to the House of Commons Information Office, simply by giving them a call and asking them about it.

Which rule are you referring to Iain that Deputy Speaker's staff cannot engage in political activities in their constituencies?

You haven't a leg to stand on as there is no such role.

DespairingLiberal said...

I quote from the Wikipedia entry on the subject:


The Speaker is assisted by three deputies, all of whom are elected by the House. The most senior deputy is known as the Chairman of Ways and Means; the title derives from the now defunct Ways and Means Committee which formerly considered taxation-related bills. The remaining deputies are known as the First Deputy and Second Deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means. Typically, the Speaker presides for only three hours each day; for the remainder of the time, one of the deputies takes the Chair. During the annual Budget, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer reads out the government's spending proposal, the Chairman of Ways and Means, rather than the Speaker, presides. Moreover, the Speaker never presides over the Committee of the Whole House, which, as its name suggests, consists of all the members, but operates under more flexible rules of debate. (This device was used so that members could debate independently of the Speaker, whom they suspected acted as an agent or spy of the monarch. Now, the procedure is used to take advantage of the more flexible rules of debate.)

Deputies have the same powers as the Speaker when presiding. Akin to the Speaker, they do not take part in partisan politics, and remain completely impartial in the House. However, they are entitled to take part in constituency politics, and to make their views known on these matters. In General Elections, they stand as party politicians. If a Deputy Speaker is presiding, then he or she holds the casting vote instead of the Speaker."

DespairingLiberal said...

In that last one, I of course meant "no such rule" and not "no such role" - apologies for this type.

psychotrader said...

yeah like any thing is gonna happen to her. Don't you know the government is above the law? Prove me wrong, world...

Hamish said...

Despairing Liberal,
I still haven't got my head round your first comment on this thread 4:02pm.
I literally cannot understand it.

Unsworth said...

@ Despairing Liberal

Wikipedia is now the parliamentary authority? How? Why? Is this the best that you can do?

Nowhere in your 'reference' or any job description that I have been able to find is there any mention of overtly political acts on the part of Assistants. And note that this act took place 'in the House', not in the constituency.

See also:

or Hansard.

Keith Elliott said...

Well it's not often I agree with Despairing Liberal...but on this occasion he's absolutely right.

I'm interested in which 'rule' you referred to, Mr Dail, when you wrote this particular blog?

Magical_Mist said...

DespairingLiberal, you really should know better than to quote Wikipedia!

It's really not an acceptable point of reference.

Magical_Mist said...

Although this may not in fact be against any specific laws, it does seem to be particularly sneaky.
It seems to me that any posts other than party political ones should be completely unbiased.

Iain Dale said...

I didn't mention the word 'rule'. But you are not allowed to use parliamentary email for purposes like this.

DespairingLiberal said...

It's a damn site more accurate than Iain Dale, Magical. I think you'll find Wikipedia has been checked by hundreds of people, whereas Iain's unfounded smears come out of just one brain.

Iain Dale said...

Give it a rest. there is no smear. I reported a fact.

Talking of smears, I have read your comment on Evan Price's blog where you smear me. What a nasty hypocrite you are. I haven't stopped you commenting at all and publish all your comments. But one more comment like that one and I might change my mind.

Anonymous said...

As much as we all know that Iain only did this to have a groan inducing headline in his blog we have to remember that Iain rarely, if ever, accepts that he gets things wrong. Remember his branding of April Pond as a whore?

Just has Iain finds it difficult to understand why the Daily Mail/PCC allow a level of of 'acceptable homophobia' (as most of us do as well) he also finds it difficult to understand that not all of us agree with his interpretaion of when there should be impartial rules (basically no comments on David Cameron) and when there should not be rules on impartiality (basically attacks on anyone who disagrees with Iain).

Iain is one of the best bloggers this country has to offer - I think some people forget that he is also blogging from a particlar perspective that is not shared by everyone.

Unsworth said...

@ Strapworld

I'm not sure that I understood your case to be that "No speaker can be apolitical. It is an imposibility. One can be impartial yes but not apolitical."

As I read it you were saying "If the speaker and the assistants are supposed to be a political (apolitical?), perhaps that job should be done by Civil Servants."

I'm not too sure that those positions are mutually and entirely exclusive, but they do seem contradictory.

In any event, I think you're right to highlight the difference between 'apolitical' and 'impartial'. Which Speaker over, say, the past forty years has been 'impartial', do you think? Or is this beyond the capabilities of Man?

Shamik Das said...

Unsworth, I don't disagree; you should re-read my previous post, when I said:

What might be worth exploring is researchers using Parliamentary time and facilities for party political purposes, but as all parties' researchers, and I mean all, do this, there's little chance of that ever happening.

The question is, should any researcher with a Parliamentary email address be using it for party political purposes?!