Commons Executive Board to Recommend Scrapping MPs’ Exclusive Areas in Parliament

MPs could lose their exclusive access to some of Parliament’s best bars and restaurants under new recommendations being drawn up by the Commons Executive Board. They are holding a consultation as part of their response to the Cox Report into bullying and harassment in Westminster. A draft seen by Guido shows that they plan to recommend that staffers no longer be barred from MP-only areas like Strangers’ Bar, the gilded Pugin Room and the riverside Terrace. The plans are intended to end the culture of “them and us” relationships between MPs and staffers…

The draft states that “grade status (i.e. SCS, A-E) should play absolutely no role in determining whether any passholder can access a facility or service on the Estate”. Facilities like members-only toilets and showers would also be opened up to all passholders. Even more radically, the proposals could allow non-MPs to gain “exceptional access” to the Smoking Room, the Members’ Tea Room, Members’ Dining Room, and Members’ Lobby. Parliament’s old guard are not going to be pleased…

Commons Clerk Resigning

Bercow has announced that House of Commons Clerk David Natzler is resigning. Natzler will resign and retire in April next year. The Cox report into Parliamentary bullying singled out the Clerk of the House for criticism along with the Speaker and other Commons senior management. When will the Speaker follow his lead…

Bercow to Host Parliamentary Anti-Bullying Event

Fresh from explicit criticism in Dame Laura Cox’s report into bulling in the House, over allowing bullying, harassment and sexual harassment… to thrive,shameless Speaker John Bercow will on Wednesday be hosting a stunningly hypocritical anti-bullying event, complete with a photo op in Speakers’ House. In the context of the Cox report, this can only be seen as a brazen act of trolling from the Speaker…

Commons Staff Furious at Bullying Inquiry “Stitch-Up”

Commons staff have reacted with fury to the news that the new independent inquiry into Parliamentary bullying specifically rules out taking any action on individual cases. Incredulous staff received a letter from Gemma White QC this morning, informing them that:

“The Inquiry will not reopen past complaints of bullying or harassment or investigate new ones against particular individuals. Nor will it reach conclusions or make recommendations on any individual case.”

One angry researcher called it a “classic Bercow stitch-up”. Of course, an independent inquiry into Parliamentary bullying has already taken place – the Cox Inquiry – and did point the finger of blame at specific individuals, including the Speaker. The whitewash announced today makes a mockery of Parliament’s claims to be taking the issue seriously…

Bercow Bullying Blasted by Parliamentary Inquiry

The Cox Inquiry into the bullying of staff in the House of Commons has excoriated the senior Commons administration, finding “a culture, cascading from the top down, of deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence, in which bullying, harassment and sexual harassment have been able to thrive and have long been tolerated and concealed.”

Dame Laura Cox explicitly names the Speaker’s Office as part of the “senior House administration” which must replaced in order for the bullying culture to be addressed, concluding:

“I find it difficult to envisage how the necessary changes can be successfully delivered, and the confidence of the staff restored, under the current senior House administration.”

Bercow will carry on regardless unless and until Labour MPs decide otherwise

Serjeant-at-Arms: Bercow Victim of “Witch Hunt”

The senior official responsible for security and order in the House of Commons has dismissed bullying allegations against John Bercow and said the Speaker is the victim of a “witch hunt”. The extraordinary intervention in defence of beleaguered Bercow by Serjeant-at-Arms Kamal El-Hajji is published in the official Commons mag, The Housethis morning. El-Hajji wrote:

“There has recently been article after article in the daily newspapers containing speculation and accusations regarding Mr Speaker’s code of conduct and the allegedly ‘unprofessional’ way that he treats staff and colleagues working in Parliament. Due to a considerable lack of evidence supporting these allegations, it seems clear to me that there is a witch hunt against him, whether it is coming from previously disgruntled staff members or ex-colleagues trying to settle old scores of some kind.

“…we feel that there is a witch hunt going on trying to discredit Mr Speaker… I felt it’s important to stand up for what is right and to show support and solidarity to someone who has done such a great deal for Parliament and for the country.”

El-Hajji was selected for the job in 2015 by a panel of MPs headed by Bercow – he would not have got the job without the Speaker’s approval. Nice way to pay him back…

El-Hajii’s defence does not address any of the actual bullying allegations, which are extensive. It is in stark contrast to comments made by former Black Rod David Leakey, who said Bercow was unworthy of the office of Speaker. How can bullying and harassment victims have any confidence in Parliament after this display?

UPDATE: A government source condemns the Sarjeant-at-Arms: “He should be neutral in all of this. It’s really beyond unprofessional.” 

Bercow “Stupid Woman” Complaint Rejected

John Bercow will not face a standards probe after he called Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom a “stupid woman –  because only he can rule on conduct in the Chamber. Yep, seriously…

Standards chief Kathryn Stone said the issue was outside her remit as she rejected a complaint against Bercow made by Tory MP James Dudderidge, who listed the excuses given for not investigating the Speaker and told Guido:

“It is ludicrous that bullying allegations cannot be investigated because they are 7 years old, because an NDA was signed, because it was in the chamber, because it was a currently member of staff or because the person bullied is so traumatised. Enough is enough”

Bercow later acknowledged the outburst but failed to apologise. Bercow is judge and jury when it comes to his own behaviour, the system is broken…

Bercow Bullying Inquiry Blockers

These are the three MPs on the Commons standards committee who blocked an investigation into John Bercow’s bullying. Tories Christopher Chope and John Stevenson and Labour’s Kate Green voted to prevent the standards commissioner Kathryn Stone from launching an inquiry into the Speaker, following a complaint by Andrew Bridgen. The Times reports that a majority of the six lay members on the committee backed an investigation, but only MPs get a vote. Bridget Phillipson and Gary Streeter backed a probe but were outvoted by the three blockers above. 

This is a peak example of the problem with MPs on the standards committee marking their own homework. Bercow faces bullying allegations from multiple victims – Kate Emms, David Leakey, Angus Sinclair and Robert Rogers – the lay members say he should be investigated, and yet the politicians who have known the Speaker for years let him off the hook. Makes a mockery of parliament’s claims to be reforming how it deals with bullying…

Bercow Calls Patsy Julian Lewis to Praise His Treatment of Staff

Absurd spectacle in the Commons as John Bercow calls his pal Julian Lewis to make a patsy point of order asking the Speaker to confirm just how much his staff love him. Bercow takes the opportunity to say the “great majority” of his former staff left on good terms. As he and Lewis know, that isn’t the point. How many of Bercow’s former staff did not leave on good terms? And why? This is not the behaviour of an innocent man…

New Bercow Bullying Victim: I Was Paid £90,000 to Stay Silent

Bombshell fresh bullying allegations against John Bercow this evening reported by Newsnight. Devastating testimony from the Speaker’s former private secretary Angus Sinclair surely casts doubts on whether Bercow can stay on. Sinclair reveals he was paid almost £90,000 to sign a non-disclosure agreement following the bullying claims:

“I thought to myself, it’s in the public interest to know why I left.

“Yes, it breaks that non-disclosure agreement, but it’s the truth. There was bullying.”

I was working at my desk and he came in and was absolutely furious about something.

“He asked for some information from another part of the House. It had been very slow coming and I’d prodded for an early resolution and he knew that but he held me responsible.

“There was a tirade of how I’d let him down and it was the worst thing.

“There was a lot of bad language and suddenly his mobile phone which he’d been holding was flung on the desk in front of me and broke into a lot of bits.”

Almost as if Bercow is a total piece of work. How long can he stay in place?

Parliament’s Bullying Inquiry Won’t Investigate Bercow

Who could possibly have predicted that parliament’s bullying inquiry would be a toothless whitewash that lets John Bercow off the hook? Dame Laura Cox, the independent former judge brought in following the allegations about the Speaker, has confirmed she will not be investigating him. Cox says she:

“will not conduct an investigation into any individual complaints or reopen past cases”

So what’s the point? A stitch up to save the Speaker and an insult to bullying victims…

Bercow to Recuse Himself from Bullying Investigation Commission

Guido is hearing a rumour that Bercow will recuse himself from from chairing the House of Commons Commission investigation into bullying after coming under pressure and being threatened with a Point of Order coming up in the chamber. Presumably the Point of Order would ask him to rule on the righteousness of whether there was a conflict of interest in him being able to set the terms for his own investigation…

UPDATE: “Mr Speaker informed House of Commons Commission members this morning that he has decided to recuse himself from the agenda item concerning an Independent Complaints and Grievance Process. This item will now be taken first, with Tom Brake in the chair.” Tom Brake is a Bercow ally…

Phil’s Box Office McDonnell Takedown

Spreadsheet Phil delivers a surprise box office finale to the Spring Statement with his blistering reply to John McDonnell. The Chancellor made the point McDonnell is still refusing to apologise to Esther McVey over his infamous “lynch” comments, and also picked him up over Russia Today. Phil ya boots…

Commons Clerks Sceptical About MP-Led Bullying Inquiry

If MPs are goood at anything it is buck passing and blame swerving. An investigation by MPs chaired by the Speaker is not promising…

Bercow chairs the House of Commons commission – which will set the terms of reference for an “independent” inquiry. Even Caroline Lucas, who is sympathetic to Bercow, says: “I think at the very least he should withdraw from that decision and that the three deputy speakers might judge on that…There might also be a case for stepping back temporarily if an investigation is carried out.” Can you imagine any other situation where the accused is allowed to be in judgement or set the terms of the investigation? This is manifestly against natural justice.

Debbie Abrahams’ Bullying Stitch Up Spin

Debbie Abrahams’ allies are doing a good job of convincing moderate Labour MPs and her friends in the media that she is the victim of a stitch up by the Leader’s Office. She is saying the bullying allegations against her are essentially a plot by Team Jezza to get rid of her after she publicly criticised him. The truth is that Abrahams’ behaviour towards staff has been the subject of much chatter among parliamentary bag-carriers for years. She has been looked at closely by broadcasters investigating bullying. Don’t believe the Labour moderates’ spin…

Motion Calling For Independent Inquiry into Bercow Bullying

An Early Day Motion has been tabled calling for an independent inquiry into John Bercow following bullying allegations:

“This house calls for an independent investigation into the allegations of bullying made against Mr Speaker.”

Caroline Lucas has been granted her Urgent Question at 3:30pm. Surely MPs on all sides will want to get to the bottom of this…

Parliament’s Senior Women Tell Bercow to Step Aside

John Bercow has spent half his Speakership boasting about how he was going to improve working conditions for women in parliament. Now the very women Bercow’s PR drive claimed he was defending want him to step aside over his bullying of female staff.

A cross-party group of senior female MPs is calling for him to suspend himself from his duties while he is investigated. Caroline Lucas is tabling an Urgent Question in the Commons today, she says: “I think at the very least he should withdraw from that decision and that the three deputy speakers might judge on that. There might also be a case for stepping back temporarily if an investigation is carried out”.

Jess Phillips, previously a Bercow fan, says: “clearly there has to be some kind of independent investigation. And it may be that he should consider stepping back until that has taken place”.

The Sunday Times reported Harriet Harman is considering moving against Bercow. It is significant that the anger against the Speaker isn’t just coming from the Duddrigde / Bridgen crowd – these are female MPs and Labour MPs on whom Bercow has previously relied on for support who now want him to step aside. Will Bercow listen to the women he claimed he would use his Speakership to protect?

Labour Whips Found Farrelly Guilty of “Aggressive Behaviour” After Four Complaints Last Year

Labour’s Chief Whip made bullying-accused Paul Farrelly write letters of apology to fellow MPs after a whip’s office investigation found him guilty of “aggressive behaviour”, Guido can reveal. Labour whips launched a probe into Farrelly late last year following four complaints to Chief Whip Nick Brown, including one from a non-MP staff member working in parliament. The complaints concerned a series of aggressive outbursts on the day of a crucial Brexit vote. A ‘drunk’ Farrelly was said to have “squared up to” MP James Frith:

‘He jumped in front of Frith, who said, “Er, OK, aren’t we supposed to be in a queue?” Farrelly just started effing, saying, “Don’t you f****** start something with me.”

In a separate incident it was reported Farrelly had rowed with MPs Gareth Snell and Ruth Smeeth. At the time Farrelly denied the allegations, claimed he was victim of a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign and said “I don’t even know who James Frith is”…

Now Guido can reveal the whips did find Farrelly guilty of “aggressive behaviour”. Brown wrote in his findings:

“I have spoken to Paul about the events of Tuesday 14th November 2017. Accounts differ but on the balance of probablity I uphold the complaint of aggressive behaviour but not physical assault. In my view, the best way forward is for Paul Farrelly to write and apologise to Gareth Snell, Ruth Smeeth and James Frith… The member of staff has a right of complaint and anonymity… it would be appropriate for Paul to write a concilatiroy letter to the member of staff, care of ***, who can forward the letter on.”

Labour did not respond to a request made by Guido yesterday to disclose the outcome of the probe. The revelation that a complaint was upheld against Farrelly will pile pressure on the Newcastle-under-Lyme MP after Newsnight reported allegations about his behaviour towards former Commons clerk Emily Commander. Jeremy Corbyn yesterday said he would not suspend Farrelly:

“Obviously the investigation must take place first. If there’s proof of bullying then appropriate reprimands have to take place.”

With an upheld complaint for aggressive behaviour and further allegations of that nature Labour will surely have to suspend him if they are to be consistent…

Second Commons Employee Quit After Being Told to “F**k Off” By Bercow

Back in 2014 John Bercow was the subject of a formal complaint about his behaviour, told one senior Commons employee to “f**k off” and subjected Commons staff to regular “temper tantrums”. At the time Guido reported how Bercow told the respected Clerk of the House Sir Robert Rogers to “f**k off” at a meeting, with Rogers ultimately taking the decision to leave his post after just two and a half years.

“It’s been very gruelling for him,” said one with a view of the action over the period. “Temper tantrums and childish behaviour every Monday morning. I’m not surprised he’s going, it’s exhausted him.

Another witness said: “I wouldn’t speak to a dog in the way Bercow spoke to X (a senior member of the hierarchy).”

Worth reading this from Michael Fabricant on the Rogers incident:

A well-known public figure, a distinguished lawyer and knight of the realm, said he was astonished to have witnessed an unprovoked outburst by the Speaker. He had gone to the Speaker’s official apartments at Westminster for a meeting with Mr Bercow when Sir Robert popped his cheery face round the door.

According to my dinner party companion, Mr Bercow shouted at Sir Robert: ‘Can’t you see I haven’t finished – just **** off!’

I asked my dinner companion if he was absolutely certain of this and he said, yes, it definitely happened and that he had been shocked by the language and the way he had humiliated the Clerk in front of outsiders, making a bad deal even worse.

At the time Guido wrote of Bercow’s anti-bullying hotline: “It’ll be interesting to see how many complaints it gets from the Speaker’s behaviour”. Last night Newsnight revealed Bercow’s behaviour towards his private secretary Kate Emms forced her out of the job. A Whitehall source tells Guido: “Kate is one of the most respected and trusted civil servants in the Cabinet Office. She is completely unimpeachable and not a flake”. Remember she was signed off sick after enduring Bercow – and he is essentially accusing her of lying with his denials. Level of surprise in SW1 that Bercow is a bad-tempered bully: Zero.

Bercow Accused of Bullying Female Secretary Until She Was Signed Off With PTSD

A bombshell Newsnight investigation has accused John Bercow of bullying his female private secretary.[…] Read the rest

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