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…
John Bercow has personally stepped in to stop a BBC investigation getting information about the behaviour of Keith Vaz. BBC Newsnightapplied under the Freedom of Information Act to see papers relating to Vaz’s trips abroad, after clerks had raised concerns that he was not following parliamentary rules. In August the same programme revealed how Vaz himself had bullied former Commons clerk Jenny McCullough after she questioned his foreign trip expenses.
Bercow argued that administration of committee trips should be covered under parliamentary privilege, and then extraordinarily blocked the matter going to tribunal, using a very unusual personal power to prevent a judge reviewing his argument. Because of this, unlike normal FoI procedure, Newsnight has no means to appeal his decision…
Newsnight’s Chris Cook sums up the extraordinary situation:
“The net result is that the Speaker, who denies bullying, has made an order to hide information about the behaviour of his close personal friend, Keith Vaz, a man who also denies bullying – supposedly to protect MPs’ freedom of speech.
And then he has gone out of his way to use a personal veto to make sure no-one could even consider reviewing that questionable decision.“
Bercow will continue to get away with it as long as he is protected by MPs who prioritise his anti-Brexit views over safeguarding and transparency…
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…
Watch the reaction when Sky reporter Aubrey Allegretti asked John Bercow to clear up if he’s definitely resigning as Speaker next summer. He didn’t answer and instead his aide aggressively shoved the reporter away. This is revealing on a number of levels.
Firstly, the video reveals that he condones this kind of unnecessarily aggressive behaviour from his staff. Secondly it confirms that Bercow is unwilling to give an on the record confirmation of when he intends to step down. It has been widely reported that “John Bercow has told friends he intends to stand down as Commons Speaker next summer”. The use of “friends” by political journalists often means the subject himself is giving an unattributable comment or he has authorised someone the comment on his behalf. By avoiding giving an on the record commitment to go he will be able to say next year that he gave no such commitment, despite it being widely reported this week.
Bercow’s ruse is intended to merely take the heat out of the moment following publication of the Cox report and leading parliamentarians calling for him to go. Not the usual awkward squad, people like Maria Miller. By letting it be known without personally committing that he intends to go soon, he discourages MPs from making a move against him. A push against the Speaker requires substantial effort and involves the risk of retribution or a loss of preferment. The Speaker enjoys almost monarchical powers in parliament, he is the prince of the Palace of Westminster. Wounding him without removing him means he will be able to exact revenge and that is very much within his bullying nature. Unless there is a concerted and organised cross-party effort Bercow will stay in office for as many years as he can. He has no intention of stepping down whatever his “friends” tell the press.
Welcome back to Twitter to Sally Bercow, whose return has been verified by her lawyer David Allen Green. Sally is picking up where she left off, starting with a vocal defence of Brexit-hating rebels Dominic Grieve and Lord Moat:
Plenty of tweets and retweets accusing Number 10 of lying about Brexit and Theresa May of “dangerous, anti-democratic nonsense”:
She is also clearly enjoying trolling Bercow critic James Duddridge and insists the Speaker isn’t going anywhere:
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford deliberately gets himself suspended from the Commons with a naff stunt at PMQs. The rest of the Nats then walked out in protest as Bercow floundered and completely lost control. Oh well. Bye!
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 House, this 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.”
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…
Guido knows it is well into rosé hour on a sunny Friday afternoon, but Labour dinosaur Barry Sheerman is being particularly incoherent over on Twitter. Sheerman began by launching a bold defence of the Speaker and calling for Leadsom to resign instead, only to be called out for mansplaining by Ruth Davidson:
Outrageous treatment of the House of Commons by Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom spun by Tory Whips as fault of Speaker! Leadsom should now resign! @BBCNews
Thank you for explaining to me who my colleague, Andrea Leadsom, is. How would my silly little female head have known that without your help? I still think the idea that you think SHE should lose HER job for being publicly sworn at and upbraided is ridiculous!
Sheerman was the first serving MP to register as a lobbyist. He abuses his position to shill for products directly linked to his lobbying activities. This mad conflict of interest should obviously not be allowed to happen, Sheerman has got away with it because the Speaker has not cracked down on him. Now Sheerman is returning the favour, as pro-Bercow Labour MPs continue to make a mockery of parliament’s response to bullying. Step away from the keyboard, Barry.
This is the moment John Bercow allegedly called Andrea Leadsom a “stupid woman” and “f***ing useless” on Wednesday. In an extraordinarily bad-tempered rant, even by the Speaker’s standards, Bercow eyeballs Leadsom and admonishes her in a particularly aggressive manner. Leadsom is so unimpressed at Bercow’s macho behaviour that she deliberately looks away and refuses to make eye contact. When you watch the video, you can see this visibly infuriates the pint-sized Commons ref, whose bluster builds into an almost deranged crescendo. When the Speaker finishes, the camera pans out. At this point Bercow turns to the left, clearly gesticulates towards Leadsom and appears to say something. An eye-witness tells Guido that Bercow said a number of words, one of which was definitely “outrageous”. Bercow does not deny that he also called her a “stupid woman” and “f***ing useless”.
The Speaker has previously flat out denied all the recent bullying allegations against him. Guido understands he has not denied this one because he fears footage will emerge proving he did say it. Footage in the Commons is controlled by the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit. There is always a camera on the Speaker, the PBU will have had the footage, as yet they are not being forthcoming about helping to clear up what was said. As with all parliamentary bodies, all roads lead to the Speaker, so the PBU will be under immense internal pressure to cover this up. This week MPs on the Standards Committee voted to block an investigation into Bercow. He is being protected by the system. Anyone who comes by the footage can leak it to Guido in confidence here…
John Bercow has remarkably granted an emergency SO24 debate to Labour on money resolutions based on exact same Urgent Question he granted to Afzal Khan last week. This is highly unusual behaviour from the Speaker – it is a repeat that allows Labour to bash the government using an emergency measure for what is objectively not an urgent issue. Tory sources say it as ridiculous that Bercow would even hear the application yet alone grant an SO24 debate. That is not the only curious decision the Speaker has made recently…
There was a very big showing on the Tory benches at Business Questions today. Bercow was faced with more questions from the government side than just about ever before. For the first time in years, he chose to cut Business Questions short.
Then there was his grandstanding during the Points of Order after PMQs yesterday. Bercow delivered a long rebuke to Chris Grayling, accusing him of an “abuse” of parliament by failing to give Labour enough warning about his statement on the East Coast Main Line. Bercow issued a direct warning to the government, referring to his nine years in the Commons and, with classic hyperbole, boasting about how they can’t “stop me”. The Labour benches loved it…
“I hope that that message is heard loudly and clearly on the Government Front Bench, at the highest level, by the people in particular by whom it needs to be heard. If I have to make the point again on future occasions, and to use the powers of the Chair to facilitate the rights of this House in other ways, no matter what flak emanates from the Executive, I will do so in the future, as I have always done over the past nine years, and no one and nothing will stop me doing my duty by the House of Commons.”
A pattern is emerging. Yesterday morning Guido revealed Bercow had worked with Labour and advised them on how they could use a humble address motion to attempt to force the government to release private papers on Brexit. This behaviour from the supposedly impartial Speaker left Tory MPs understandably livid.
So what is he doing? Bercow is reliant on the support of Labour MPs to keep him in his job. His position will only truly come under threat when Labour MPs decide to pull the plug. Over the last few weeks, following the bullying revelations and the emergence of Harriet Harman as a possible successor, Labour’s historic support for Bercow has come into question. It appears Bercow is now, more than ever, granting Labour spurious SO24 debates, Points of Order and even advising them on how to use arcane parliamentary procedures to whack the government, in an attempt to shore up the support he needs on the Labour benches. Why would Labour want to get rid of the Speaker if he grants them everything they ask for and uses his position in the chair to facilitate partisan attacks on the government? Bercow and Labour are undermining the impartiality of the office of Speaker to help him stay in post…
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…
At business questions Tory MP James Duddridge asked the government whether there would be time for a debate on the qualities required in the next Speaker. Modest, calm, dignified, cool under pressure, punctual, that kind of thing…
Scandal-hit Bercow suggested he is staying put and couldn’t resist delivering a personal slap-down to Duddridge. He said:
“I very gently say to the Honurable Gentleman in terms which are very straightforward and which I know he will be fully able to understand… the Honourable Gentleman will recall I indicated my willingness to continue in the chair in June of last year…”
Things have somewhat changed since then, Mr Speaker.
Major development via Politics Home, who have former Black Rod David Leakey saying John Bercow’s behaviour is “unworthy of someone in such public office” and does not “stand up to the standards expected in public life”. He reveals that “lots of people” were “terrified of the Speaker”:
“On one occasion he quite suddenly erupted in a rage, banging the table and being extremely and personally rude to me, including calling me an anti-Semite. He did apologise to me for that specific remark afterwards, but not for his other highly personal insults, and it is intolerable.
“His rage erupted, as on a previous occasion, and the red mist suddenly descended: it was quite disproportionate and unreasonable by any standards.
“His explosive and intemperate behaviour is legendary, objectionable and unworthy of someone in such public office – conduct which may not stand up to the standards expected in public life. There were lots of people who were, frankly, terrified of the Speaker.”
It is starting to look like Bercow is going to have to go.
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…
Theresa May’s spokesman has said the PM wants the bullying allegations against John Bercow to be investigated. As things stand parliament’s ongoing inquiry will not look into claims against the Speaker. Bercow is accused of:
Shouting at and undermining his former private secretary Kate Emms, who had to be signed off work with PTSD.
“This is, at its heart, a matter of public trust,” he told the PM, concluding: “I cannot reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made to the country in our manifesto at the last election… I believe that the regulatory regime proposed for Northern Ireland presents a very real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom. I cannot support an indefinite backstop arrangement, where the EU holds a veto over our ability to exit…”