Former Commons Speaker John Bercow labelled ‘serial bully’ after independent inquiry

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Former Commons Speaker John Bercow labelled ‘serial bully’ after independent inquiry

Panel upholds 21 out of 35 complaints made against him by former staff members of the first ever Jewish Speaker of the House of Commons

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Speaker John Bercow (Photo credit: House of Commons/PA Wire)
Speaker John Bercow (Photo credit: House of Commons/PA Wire)

Former House of Commons Speaker John Bercow is a “serial bully” whose behaviour “fell very far below that which the public has a right to expect from any member of parliament”, an independent inquiry has found.

In a verdict announced on Tuesday into the conduct of the Bercow, the first ever Jewish Speaker, a panel upheld 21 out of 35 complaints made against him by former staff.

By denying him future access to a Westminster pass, the panel effectively banned him from parliament.

The damning report – published after Bercow appealed against the initial report made on him by Kathryn Stone, the Standards Commissioner – said: “The respondent’s conduct was so serious that, had he still been a member of parliament, we would have determined that he should be expelled by resolution of the house. As it is, we recommend that he should never be permitted a pass to the parliamentary estate.”

During his decade in the role Bercow was at the centre of allegations around bullying – with claims he had sworn at officials and had thrown his mobile phone.

Allegations were levelled against him by Lord Lisvane, the former clerk of the Commons, and private secretaries Kate Emms and Angus Sinclair.

The sub-panel of the independent experts chaired by Sir Stephen Irwin found parliament’s bullying and harassment policy was “breached repeatedly and extensively by the most senior member of the House of Commons”.

“In all, 21 separate allegations were proved and have been upheld. The house may feel that his conduct brought the high office of Speaker into disrepute,” it said.

“This was behaviour which had no place in any workplace. Members of staff in the house should not be expected to have to tolerate it as part of everyday life.”

Bercow’s appeals against those decisions were dismissed and in one case it was suggested that he had “been widely unreliable and repeatedly dishonest in his evidence”.

After leaving his position as Speaker in 2019, Bercow claimed he had suffered “subtle” antisemitism in the Commons, mainly at the hands of Tory MPs.

“I did experience antisemitism from members of the Conservative Party.” Bercow said. “It’s very difficult to put a figure on it. A lot was subtle.”

Bercow, 58, also enraged the ruling Conservatives with a series of decisions they saw as trying to stymie Brexit.

He had though, repeatedly spoken of his pride at his Jewish background, and was supportive of MPs such as former Labour parliamentarian Luciana Berger, when she suffered antisemitic abuse.

Bercow later announced he was joining the Labour Party himself, having been denied a life peerage by the Tories.

Responding to the panel’s decision he said the findings are a “travesty of justice rooted in prejudice, spite and hearsay”.

He added: “Parliament is supposed to be the highest court in the land.

“This inquiry, which lasted a ghastly 22 months at great cost to the taxpayer, has failed it dismally. At the end of it, the panel has simply said that I should be denied a parliamentary pass which I have never applied for and do not want.

“That is the absurdity of its position.”

Labour later announced Bercow had been administratively suspended from the party pending an investigation.



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