A £37,000 Portrait Of "Serial Bully" Former Speaker John Bercow Will Remain In Parliament – For Now
A £37,000 portrait of former Commons Speaker John Bercow will remain on the Parliamentary estate while a committee of MPs determine “how the House approaches works such as these”.
The decision to maintain the portrait, which hangs in Speaker’s House, follows a report by Parliament's Independent Expert Panel, which upheld 21 separate allegations of bullying and harassment against Bercow.
A House of Commons official told PoliticsHome that the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art is in the process of developing a policy “for addressing artworks which contain controversial public figures and subjects”.
Final decisions on a policy covering controversial artworks on the parliamentary estate are expected to be announced later this year following a “rigorous” period of engagement with stakeholders.
A Commons official confirmed to PoliticsHome that the interpretation and siting of artworks will be subject to consultation with MPs and other users of relevant areas.
“The Committee recognises the concerns that have been raised around the portrait of former Speaker, John Bercow and we are actively developing a policy which will be used to assess how the House approaches works such as these,” Dean Russell, Chair of The Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, said.
“It is important that we are honest about the works of art in Parliament and find ways to better explain the subjects featured - including the upsetting and unacceptable aspects of their lives,” the Conservative MP added.
Bullying allegations against Bercow, referred to the panel by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, were brought by three former House staff relating to incidents which took place between 2009 and 2014.
One complainant claimed the former Speaker "shouted and mimicked" his employees, while another said the MP often displayed "threatening conduct" and "undermining behaviour".
A third former staff member claimed that the Speaker had subjected them to a "sustained course of conduct… that involved repeated unfounded criticism of the complainant" which included "derogatory inferences about [his] upbringing and background".
Bercow has strongly dismissed the findings of the report, claiming that "to describe what I have experienced as a kangaroo court is grossly insulting to kangaroos".
Following the IEP report’s publication, Conservative MP Dr Caroline Johnson called for an “explanatory plaque” to be placed alongside Bercow’s portrait.
“There are a number of records of Mr Bercow's period in office throughout this building which could have to be seen on a potentially daily basis by his victims,” Johnson told the Commons.
“In the light of this report and the need to set history in context, is there any intention on the basis of Mr Speaker or the Speaker's office to put explanatory plaques alongside these, such as next to Mr Bercow's portrait in Speaker's House?”
On Tuesday PoliticsHome revealed that a plaque dedicated the spinning studio in Parliament’s gym to Bercow is in the process of being removed.
The cycle studio in the gym on the parliamentary estate has been named the “John Bercow Lounge” since 2015.
The exercise facility has existed on the estate since 1999 and parliamentarians including Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab and senior Tory MP Peter Bone have been known to break a sweat there.
A House of Commons official confirmed to PoliticsHome that the plaque “will be removed in due course”.
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