Formal complaint made against former MP for Buckingham John Bercow

The former MP for Buckingham and Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow is facing a formal complaint believed to be in relation to bullying.

The complaint has been made by his former senior adviser and Clerk of the House between 2011 and 2014, Lord Lisvane.

John Bercow during a visit to a school in Winslow

John Bercow during a visit to a school in Winslow

The complaint was submitted on Wednesday morning, 22 January 2020, to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

In a statement, Mr Bercow said: "At no stage did he do so, even though he became Clerk of the House - the most senior official. The timing of this intervention is curious."

Mr Bercow, aged 56, who was the MP for Buckingham from 1997 – 2019 and the Speaker of the House from 2009 - 2019 until he stood down from both posts on 4 November 2019 prior to the General Election, has faced other accusations of bullying.

This newspaper previously reported that Mr Bercow had been accused of bullying members of his staff. A committee decided behind closed doors that historic cases could not be investigated but a wider inquiry into an alleged culture of bullying was announced by the House of Commons Commission on 19 March 2018.

That Government report into bullying and harassment at the House of Commons, released in October 2018, concluded there is a culture of abusive conduct that is particularly serious, and recommended that senior management, including Speaker of the House of Commons, step down.

Dame Laura Cox, who compiled the report wrote:

“The inescapable conclusion from the views expressed during this inquiry is that it will be extremely difficult to build confidence that there will be fundamental change when the levers of change are regarded as part of the change that is needed.”

On 1 May 2018, BBC Newsnight broadcast an interview with John Bercow’s former private secretary, Angus Sinclair, who accused him of angry outbursts including mimicry and smashing a mobile phone between 2009 and 2010.

Mr Sinclair’s successor, Kate Emms, made similar allegations against the Speaker dating back to 2011. Ms Emms was eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Two days after Mr Sinclair's interview on Newsnight, Ex-Black Rod David Leakey said Mr Bercow could be “intimidating, unreasonable, and disproportionate” and that he did not think the Speaker’s conduct met the required standard.

Two weeks after this, Mr Bercow was accused of calling the Aylesbury born Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom, a “stupid woman” during an angry outburst at Westminster.

Mrs Leadsom decided not to make a complaint about the Speaker’s behaviour, telling this paper: “I’m wanting to focus on the prize, which is changing the culture of Parliament, not focusing on any individual case.”

On 12 June 2018, MP Claire Perry wrote to Mr Bercow asking him to “consider his behaviour” after he allegedly made a sexist remark to her during Parliament. The Speaker demanded “no dilation” from Ms Perry when he felt she was taking too long to answer a question.

‘Dilation’ can refer to someone speaking at length but is also associated with childbirth.