Did Mrs Murdoch assault the pie-thrower?

July 29, 2011

Yesterday Jonnie Marbles, the prankster who threw a “foam pie” at Rupert Murdoch as the media magnate gave evidence to a Commons select committee about “phone hacking”, pleaded guilty to assault and “causing harassment, alarm or distress“. I suppose that’s fair enough – but why hasn’t Murdoch’s wife been charged with the same offence? According to the Guardian newspaper, Murdoch’s wife, .”Wendi Deng, leapt to her husband’s defence, first slapping May-Bowles away and then throwing the plate at him as he was led away by police”. Jonnie Marbles was in police custody when she threw the pie, so her action can’t be excused as defending her aged husband. So, if part-time stand-up comedian Jonnie (real name Jonathan May-Bowles) is guilty of assault and harrassment, surely Mrs Murdoch is equally guilty?

Jonnie Marbles is being dealt with as an example, to show the world how seriously Britain takes parliamentary process. The judge in the case, district judge Daphne Wickham, was asked by Marbles’ solicitor if she could change the date when he has to return to court for sentencing as the date she set conflicts with Marbles’ booked family holiday. But she wouldn’t have any of it. Said a warrant would be issued for his arrest if he did not turn up.

She said: “He is on bail for a serious offence which carries a risk of imprisonment.

“It’s due process.

“He should have thought about this on the 19th of July when he committed these offences.”

Judge Daphne is just being stupid here. If throwing a “foam pie” at someone is a crime deserving of imprisonment, the world has gone utterly bonkers. Also, as I just pointed out Mrs Murdoch is guilty of the same crimes, so surely she should be arrested, and have her passport confiscated so she can’t flee back to the USA where she lives. But of course that won’t happen. It’s okay for the Murdochs to hack murder victims’ phones and “assault” people in a Commons committee room; but a mere mortal like Marbles must be treated like an evil fiend.

Luckily, Marbles hasn’t lost his sense of humour. Outside Westminster magistrates court, he said “I would just like to say this has been the most humble day of my life”, the very same comment made by Murdoch when he was giving evidence to the committee.

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Abolish the Speaker!

July 5, 2011

I draw your attention to this article about the current row in Britain about the government’s plans to restrict housing benefit. But not because I want to discuss the proposed legislation (yet)… No, I want to comment on one sentence in the Guardian article:

It is understood that Labour will try to force Pickles and Duncan Smith to respond to an urgent question on this in the Commons chamber on Monday. But it is up to the Speaker, John Bercow, to decide whether to accept the move.

The Speaker of the House of Commons is a traditional and very undemocratic post. The Speaker is chosen in a very light-hearted, “all mates together” type vote of MPs (Members of Parliament). All very cosy. And then the winner of the vote takes on the title and becomes perhaps the most powerful officer in Parliament. He decides who can speak, when, and about what. He keeps the House’s debates from getting too rowdy (by ordering our elected representatives to shut up!); and he administrates House clerical and procedural business. He also gets to live in the Parliamentary estate, where he has Big Ben for an alarm clock.

The undemocratic nature of the post was made clear when the previous Speaker, Michael Martin (2000-2009) refused to publish information about Members’ expense claims despite the huge public interest on the matter. He was eventually forced to release details (with many redactions) after the secret documents were leaked to the press. Michael Martin is now Baron Martin of Springburn, a life member of the House of Lords from where he still takes part in ruling the nation. How “democratic” is that?

The Speaker is traditionally non-partisan, meaning he doesn’t get involved in the political rows. But I don’t think that’s really possible. And even if the Speaker really doesn’t take sides, how can our “modern democracy” work effectively when one man makes such important decisions? Shouldn’t this business be taken care of openly by a group that more accurately reflects the electorate?

I might not be able to collect the prime minister’s scalp; but maybe I’ll take the Speaker’s instead. So here’s the rallying cry: Down With The Speaker!

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