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Trade union condemns Labour's Emily Thornberry as she defends John Bercow in bullying row

Trade union condemns Labour's Emily Thornberry as she defends John Bercow in bullying row
4 min read

Emily Thornberry has come under fire after she defended John Bercow over calls to quit as Speaker - despite a damning report into bullying in Parliament calling for him to go.

The Labour frontbencher said it was "absolutely not the time" for Mr Bercow to stand down from the role and said accounts of his behaviour do not match those she has experienced or heard from other senior figures in Westminster.

The probe, led by Dame Laura Cox, concluded that the Speaker should step down along with other parliamentary bosses to help sweep away the harassment culture within the Palace of Westminster.

It warned that a culture had developed that allowed abuse in Westminster to continue and “actively sought to cover it up” without offering support or protection for victims.

Dame Laura added: “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.”

Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA trade union representing Commons clerks, accused the Shadow Foreign Secretary of being "completely disingenuous".

Mr Bercow has also faced claims, which he denies, that he bullied two of his former parliamentary private secretaries.

Meanwhile former Black Rod David Leakey said “explosive and intemperate behaviour” from the Speaker was “legendary”.

But Ms Thormberry insisted it was "not the time to be changing speaker” given the uncertainty around Brexit legislation.

“We do need to have all hands to the deck at the moment,” she told Sky News.

When asked whether it was appropriate for Mr Bercow to stay on even if he is part of a culture of bullying, she added: “Well my own personal experience is different to the things I read in the reports, so it’s difficult, you know, whenever you make a decision about somebody, you have your own personal relationship and then you hear other things."

And when pressed on whether the behaviour towards junior staff could be different to that of MPs, she continued: "Yeah but I don’t know. I speak to the chaplain of the House, Rose. She says this description is not something she recognises.

“I mean I don’t work with him on a day-to-day basis, but people who I know and respect do, and they say that he’s a fine Speaker, and actually a lot of the reforms that we’ve seen in the House of Commons, which have been so long in coming, he has been introducing and that’s very much to his credit and to the credit of the House of Commons that at long last we’re doing it.

“And I appreciate that there must be times when it is extremely frustrating trying to get, trying to drag the House of Commons into the 21st century, so I don’t know the ins and outs of this.”


An Urgent Question into the findings of the report will be held in the House of Commons later today.

The outgoing head of the Commons standards committee is among those to have urged speaker Mr Bercow to “step down” following the report by Dame Laura Cox.

Writing in the Times, Sir Kevin Barron said: "The change in culture has to come from the top and I no longer believe that the Speaker, John Bercow, is the correct person to provide that leadership, so he should step down."

Chair of the Commons Women and Equalities Committee Maria Miller also heaped fresh pressure on the Speaker to consider his position.

She told Sky News: “The report clearly calls for a change in management right from the top and that includes the Speaker.

"We’ve had a running set of stories now about the appalling behaviour that has been covered up in the House of Commons and if we’re going to get the sort of change that we need and the sort of change that my committee calls for all the time from private business and public sector then the House of Commons has to put its own house in order."

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