Officials Claim ‘Establishment Stitch-up’ Saved ‘Bully’ Bercow

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16: John Bercow accepting the Special Award at the PinkNews Awards 2019 at The Church House on October 16, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images)
Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images

Two former officials have described Parliament’s handling of accusations of bullying by John Bercow as an “establishment stitch-up” to protect the outgoing Commons speaker.

Mr Bercow’s former private secretary, Angus Sinclair, and the former Black Rod, David Leakey, have said that the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme has come “too late” as the speaker is set to leave office later this week.

Speaking with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Sinclair said: “I think we’ve lost the moment. The horse has long bolted.” The senior official also referred to comments he had previously made in 2018, when he told BBC Newsnight that Bercow was prone to “over-the-top anger”.

David Leakey alleged that the speaker created a climate of “fear and intimidation” in Parliament.

Mr Leakey told the Sunday Telegraph: “I doubt I will make a complaint via the new process. Bercow will soon be outside the jurisdiction of Parliament, and there would be no sanctions that could be applied against him by the time a complaints process was complete, if it found him to have behaved inappropriately.”

Calls for Bercow’s resignation over the bullying scandal date back to 2018, when Sir Kevin Barron MP wrote in The Times: “The change in culture has to come from the top, and unfortunately I no longer believe that the speaker, John Bercow, is the correct person to provide that leadership, so he should step down.”

A Commons Commission said that MPs “too often failed to honour the responsibility to provide a workplace free from bullying and harassment”.

The statement came in response to a report by Dame Laura Cox, which detailed harassment and bullying in the House of Commons. The report recommended that allegations of bullying by the speaker should be investigated.

Last week, the Labour shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, told Sky News that ousting Bercow over the alleged instances of bullying would be a “complete cop-out” and that all of Parliament must “take responsibility now, both for what’s happened and how it can change”.

In his interview with the Sunday Telegraph, David Leaky suggested going after the peerage that is typically afforded to former Speakers of the House of Commons. He said that Bercow did not deserve the honour as he “set an appalling example to the country, not least in publicly demeaning MPs in the Chamber and on TV”.

He added that: “The icing on the cake of an Establishment stitch-up in the public perception would be for Mr Bercow to be given a peerage. It would be a scandal that Parliament would struggle to live down.”

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