Who has the worst voice in parliament?

For the first time in more than two decades we are dog-less, and the house feels horribly empty. Our Patterdale terrier, Bonnie, led a long, vigorous life but her balance had gone and her breathing was heavy, so we called the vet. Patterdales are little imps and Bonnie was ‘known to the police’. I never discussed politics with her but she liked Lib Dems; that is, she liked biting them. A public footpath bisects our garden. Most ramblers escaped intact but Bonnie had a habit of nipping tall, grey-ponytailed men with walking poles. She nipped the vicar, too, tearing a cartoon-style square out of the seat of his chinos. The

Confessions of a catnapper

As Christopher Snowdon recently pointed out, the past few governments have had a habit of passing laws that are either wildly ambitious or incredibly trivial, while neglecting the real problems Britain faces, such as the housing shortage, the productivity crisis and the eye-watering dysfunction of the NHS. An example of the former is the net-zero emissions law passed in 2019, as if the energy policy of a small island in the North Sea can affect the world’s climate. An example of the latter is a bill that will make it a criminal offence to get cats to follow you down the road. Believe it or not, this had its second

Charles Moore

What makes MPs special

On Monday, the House of Commons passed, by one vote, a motion to allow MPs to be suspended from parliament (a ‘risk-based exclusion’) if arrested for sexual or violent crime. The government had preferred that the trigger should be charge, not arrest, but there were enough Tory rebels, including Theresa May, for the lower threshold to be chosen. Jess Phillips, supporting the change, asked rhetorically, and contemptuously: ‘Why do we think we’re so special in here?’ There is, in fact, an answer to her question, and it has nothing to do with any unmerited self-esteem which MPs may feel. King Charles I entered the Commons in person on 4 January

Portrait of the Week: Trump’s indictment, Costa’s PR fail and Niger’s new leader

Home Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, announced the granting of 100 new North Sea oil and gas licences. In Aberdeen he confirmed funding for two new carbon capture projects. Thangam Debbonaire, the shadow leader of the House, said: ‘We are not going to grant any more. It is not OK. The world is on fire.’ Sir Bob Neill, the chairman of the Commons justice committee, called for a change in rules that deduct the cost of board and lodging in jail from compensation of those unjustly imprisoned. He was responding to the case of Andrew Malkinson, 57, cleared after 17 years in prison of a rape he did not commit.

Daily life at the 18th-century Bank of England

The England cricket team was once greeted at an Ashes test by an Australian banner with the immortal words ‘WOTHAM IS A BANKER’, the simple genius of the line being that you knew Wotham was being insulted before you had worked out quite who Wotham was, or what exactly he was being accused of. But, as Anne Murphy reminds us, the word ‘banker’ was not always just a word of abuse; it could also denote personal probity, sobriety, a certain nitpicking stolidity of thought, above all a preoccupation with credit and public confidence. It was not automatically oxymoronic to think of ‘virtuous bankers’. Amid all the financial crises of the

Why is the food in parliament so bad?

Anyone who finds themselves gazing at a parliamentary samosa for two minutes or more (me, for the avoidance of doubt) probably has a problem. Sadly, this is what my life has become since the Twitter account @Parliscran arrived on the scene. The reason the samosa was so mesmerising is because I was trying to work out whether it had been covered in balsamic glaze, a long-held obsession of mine. The sauce, dark and sticky as it appeared, was more likely to be some sort of tamarind situation, but nevertheless I found it beguiling.  A cursory doom-scroll through Parliscran would be a cathartic deviance to anybody who enjoys food. It is

Liz Truss’s epic blandness

Liz Truss faced her first proper grilling at PMQs. Her debut, last month, was a softball affair but today Keir Starmer went in with both fists swinging. He asked her to endorse Jacob Rees-Mogg’s view that ‘turmoil in the markets has nothing to do with the Budget’. ‘What we have done,’ said Liz, pleasantly, ‘we have taken decisive action to make sure that people are not facing energy bills of £6,000 for two years.’ Sir Keir, already hopping mad, blasted her for ignoring his specific point. ‘Avoiding the question, ducking responsibility, lost in denial,’ he said viciously. He mentioned a young couple from Wolverhampton, Zac and Rebecca, who last week

Parliament’s poignant tributes to the Queen

That so many people have wanted to say something about how the Queen touched their lives, whether or not they met her, shows quite how powerful her service was. The tributes this afternoon in the House of Commons were moving because they showed the breadth of that service, from the way she carried out her constitutional duties with the government to her personal impact on many members of the House. When parliament pays tribute to someone who has just died, the cloying phrase ‘it was the House at its best’ quickly emerges. This is self-regarding, because what today’s tributes showed was not the best bits of MPs but the best

What is Penny Mordaunt up to?

Does Penny Mordaunt know what she’s getting herself into? One of her most striking promises is to give MPs something called ‘social capital pots’: cash to spend in their constituencies. They are part of her attempt to soothe colleagues by describing them as ‘people who want to serve’ – and to weaken the power of the Treasury. ‘I want to give you more agency to serve your community,’ she said. While these pots sound unremarkable, Mordaunt would be significantly changing what an MP actually does This is a fascinating idea, and not just because it flatters MPs’ egos. It’s more than the ‘pork barrel politics’ some critics have alleged of the idea,

Boris’s desperate tearoom tour

This afternoon, a text message went out to certain Tory MPs telling them that the Prime Minister was going to be in the tearoom from 4 p.m. with the plea ‘please come to support’. This tells us so many things about the mood in the Conservative party at the moment.  The first is that Johnson feels under sufficiently imminent threat to bother going over to the Commons tearoom this afternoon. And he’s right to do so: everyone I have spoken to today, including those who have been Boris loyalists all the way and have been working extremely hard to try to help him recover, say the mood of the party

Chris Pincher loses the whip

In the last few minutes, Chris Pincher has had the Conservative whip suspended after he resigned this morning over allegations he groped two men earlier this week. The Tory chief whip has announced that the former deputy chief whip will now lose the whip while an investigation into his behaviour takes place. A spokesman said:  Having heard that a formal complaint has been made to the ICGS [the Independent Complaints and Grievence Scheme], the Prime Minister has agreed with the Chief Whip that the whip should be suspended from Chris Pincher while the investigation is ongoing. We will not prejudge that investigation. There had been noticeable disquiet in the cabinet at Pincher’s

Mark Harper is an honourable politician

This is a short story about Mark Harper MP, who is making headlines. These days Harper is probably best known as a backbench critic of Covid restrictions, but he once had a promising career as a minister, including a spell in David Cameron’s cabinet between 2015 to 2016. But that career hit a bump in early 2014 when he quit his post as immigration minister. I was running the Telegraph’s political team at the time. Many ministerial resignations are unmemorable, but Harper’s sticks in the memory. He quit because he learned that a cleaner he paid to look after his London flat did not have legal permission to live and

Rayner grills Raab over Lebedev and Saudi oil

When Angela Rayner faces Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions, it is obvious that both sides rather enjoy the exchanges. When she’s up against Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, as she was today, it feels like more of a grudge match. The session naturally centred around Ukraine, but as is Rayner’s habit, it was more political than previous PMQs. Labour’s deputy made her theme the government’s failure to ensure Britain’s oil security and links to Russian oligarchs. Much of her attack was about flaws in the absent Prime Minister’s own character: the first question was whether Johnson’s comments about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe when he was Foreign Secretary had made the situation

Zelensky’s address was strange, but sensational

This afternoon, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the House of Commons. A single flat-screen TV broadcast his speech to a packed chamber. Zelensky appeared in plain green fatigues next to Ukraine’s blue-and-yellow flag. He looked pale, tired, fearless and determined. Squads of foreign killers are roaming his homeland trying to find him. His words were spoken in English by a translator who probably had no advance sight of the text. The halting, ungrammatical phrases made the address strangely powerful. ‘I would like to tell you about the 13 days of war. The war that we did not start.’ Zelensky’s goal is simple. ‘We do not want to lose what

Christian Wakeford hires new comrades

It’s been a month since Christian Wakeford defected to Labour but the former Tory publicly insists he is loving life in opposition. Despite appearing as happy as a hostage victim when he ‘crossed the floor,’ the Bury South MP claims the ‘quite nasty personal’ attacks on him from former colleague vindicate his decision to leave. With a majority of only 402, Wakeford just has to hope he’s taken a number of his Tory-voting constituents with him to line up in the Labour column by the time of the next election. Not all though are convinced by Wakeford’s defection, coming as it did just a day after he sat through a four-hour dinner

Boris is about to give Silicon Valley censors more power than ever

Four years in the making, the Online Safety Bill has now been sent to senior ministers for review — a process that allows them to protest, to shout if anything obvious that has been missed. In this case, the process is invaluable because something huge has been missed. The Bill, if passed, would empower the Silicon Valley firms it’s designed to suborn. It would formalise and usher in a new era of censorship of UK news — run from San Francisco. This Bill would backfire in a way that its Tory advocates have so far proven unable to understand let alone address. That’s why it needs to be halted, and a rethink


Former MPs make off with Commons kit

Parliament is notoriously strapped for cash, so why are thousands of pounds being spent on unreturned IT equipment? Mr S has done some digging and Commons bosses have now written off a decent sum on outstanding kit loaned to MPs who either stood down or lost their seat at the 2019 general election. Items which cost the taxpayer more than £5,400 have been written off with iPads, laptops, monitors and a desktop among the equipment which Parliament has failed to retrieve from former members. And that’s not all, for Freedom of Information requests seen by Steerpike show which MPs have grabbed which kit. For instance, Roger Godsiff – the former Labour MP for Birmingham

Mob hound Starmer outside parliament

An uneventful Monday was enlivened this evening by some rather unappealing scenes outside parliament. Walking back from a Ministry of Defence briefing, Sir Keir Starmer was surrounded by a group of foul-mouthed anti-lockdown protesters who yelled he was a ‘traitor,’ forcing the Labour leader to leave with a police escort.  Starmer had to be bundled away into a police car after numerous insults were aggressively hurled at him. Several demonstrators claimed the former top lawyer was guilty of ‘protecting paedophiles’ while other shouted  ‘Jimmy Savile’ — a presumed reference to Boris Johnson’s comments last week about the reviled TV personality.  Johnson claimed last Monday that Starmer, when he was director of public

Commons chiefs buy half-a-million masks

Labour has been making much hay out of the government’s £8.7 billion spend on personal protective equipment (PPE), much of it bought at the height of the Covid pandemic. The shadow Treasury minister Pat McFadden claimed the figure would be ‘galling to hard-working households’ while his colleagues have made much of the government’s VIP lane to secure kit that was in desperately short supply throughout much of 2020 and 2021.  Mr S abhors waste as much as the next man. But it’s worth asking as to what Labour’s own alternatives would have been if they were running the country when millions of items were suddenly required for frontline NHS staff.

A speech which showed parliament at its best

It’s been an angry, tense few days around parliament. The Sue Gray report saw Boris Johnson accused of lying, and starting another fight about Keir Starmer and Jimmy Savile that led to more allegations of dishonesty and bad faith. Anyone glancing at news from the Commons might get confirmation that MPs are a worthless sack of rats who spend all their time scratching and biting at each other. Which is why it’s important to draw attention to the other side of the Commons, which tends to get less attention: the human, collegiate side that was on display when MPs said goodbye to Jack Dromey who was the member for Birmingham Erdington