A self-described “Moroccan living in the UK” has been appointed serjeant at arms at the House of Commons, a role which requires him to sit in the Chamber and carry the mace. Kamal El-Hajji, the first non-white in the 600 year old post, will take up the job with “the help of Allah”.
The serjeant at arms is responsible for security and keeping order within the Commons part of the parliamentary estate, as well as playing an historic ceremonial role in life of the Parliament. In return, he is remunerated with a salary of £80,000 plus a grace and favour property on the parliamentary estate, meaning that Mr El-Hajji will be living within the grounds of Britain’s Parliament.
However, questions regarding his suitability have been raised following a number of questionable tweets, now deleted from his account.
And here’s the newly appointed Serjeant at Arms. Kamal El-Hajji will perform that role with great skill and tact. pic.twitter.com/yOniaxKfJd
— Richard Heaton (@RH_MoJ) December 22, 2015
Currently, Mr El-Hajji describes himself on Twitter as “Very Passionate about Customer Service, Hospitality, Executive Protection and Aikido,” but according to The Times, until recently he described himself on the social networking site as “a Moroccan living in the UK.”
In a tweet directed to a Moroccan politician he made the same point again, tweeting: “It’s a pleasure to follow you sir, as a Moroccan living in UK, who is proud and loyal to both kingdoms.” That tweet has now been deleted.
And he has flown in the face of civil service convention by using Twitter to assert his political stance. In April, he took to the site to wish Sadiq Khan, Labour’s candidate for London Mayor good luck in the contest, tweeting “We have faith in you and we know you can do it”. That tweet too has now been deleted.
Mr Khan, who stands to be the first Muslim mayor of London if successful, has also provoked controversy by lobbying, both as an attorney and as a politician, on behalf of known and suspected terrorists. Mr Khan also shared a platform with CAGE, an advocacy group for those charged with terrorism, at an event within Parliament.
More recently, following his appointment by a panel headed up by Speaker of the House John Bercow, Mr El-Hajji tweeted his appreciation of Mr Bercow, suggesting that Bercow be granted a “more than 10 per cent pay rise” in reward for his modernising efforts.
Mr Berrow deserve more than 10% pay rise, He brought in reforms to modernise the Parliament and more, better than anyone of his Predecessors
— Kamal El-Hajji ‘BEM’ (@kamal313131) December 28, 2015
A Commons spokesman was unable to confirm whether Mr El-Hajji, who in his biography calls on “the help of Allah”, is a Muslim. The spokesman added: “The appointment of Kamal El-Hajji follows a fair and open competition and interview by a panel. The successful candidate was subsequently proposed to the Queen.”
Mr El-Hajji, who has previously held a number of security roles, moves into the post following five years at the Ministry of Justice as head of front of house and VIP relations. In December he was awarded the British Empire Medal, an award for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown; at the ceremony to commemorate the award, Lord McNally, the former justice minister, praised his front-desk operation as “the most welcoming” he had ever come across, adding “the service was outstanding”.
He replaces Bob Twigger, who has been standing in as acting Serjeant at Arms following the sudden departure of Lawrence Ward last year amid a row over the placement of an MI5 agent within Parliament.
The row centred on the employment of Paul Martin, a career MI5 agent who is working as the Parliament’s security director while at the same time retaining his security services pass and regularly briefing security agency bosses.
Mr Ward insisted that this constituted a breach of the centuries-old principle that a sovereign parliament be independent from all forms of government.