John Bercow faces second bullying complaint as former Black Rod says he was 'Jekyll and Hyde' character

Posted On: 
26th January 2020

John Bercow's hopes of securing a peerage have suffered another blow as he faced a second formal complaint of "bullying, intimidation and unacceptable behaviour".

David Leakey and John Bercow at the State Opening of Parliament in 2017.
Credit: 
PA

David Leakey, who served as Black Rod for seven years, described the former Speaker as a "Jekyll and Hyde character" who many people were "terrified" of, as he submitted his claim to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

And the former parliamentary official warned: "If John Bercow is allowed to become a peer, the declining reputation of politicians and of parliament would, sadly, be yet further diminished."

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The claims come amid a bitter row between Mr Bercow and the Government over its decision not to elevate him to the House of Lords after he stepped down as Speaker.

It was reported last week that Mr Bercow has instead been nominated for a peerage by Labour as part of the dissolution honour's list.

But the latest claims will cast further doubt on that nomination, and come after Mr Bercow strenuously denied claims from Lord Lisvane, the former House of Commons chief clerk, that he had bullied staff.

Mr Leakey first went public with his claims in 2018, when he told PoliticsHome that the Speaker's "explosive and intemperate behaviour" was "legendary". 

Writing in The Sunday Times, Mr Leakey confirmed that he was now "reluctantly" filing his own formal complaint with parliamentary authorities.

"The dossier I will submit to the commissioner will detail various incidents of bullying behaviour where I was present; the intolerable rudeness and explosive behaviour that left Bercow’s subordinates terrified was legendary, objectionable and unworthy of someone in such high public office," he said.

"Many people were, frankly, terrified of Bercow - a Jekyll and Hyde character whose furious rages were belied for many by the charm and good humour he could also deploy to such effect."

The former black rod added: "I strongly urge others, staff and politicians, who have witnessed Bercow’s conduct behind closed doors to come forward and offer their testimony. 

"In particular, I appeal to the most senior Commons officials, including Sir David Natzler (recently retired as clerk of the House) and John Benger (the current clerk) to step up to their duty. They have personal experiences of their own, and have seen the impact and devastating consequences of Bercow’s treatment of individuals."

Mr Bercow has consistently denied all claims of bullying and accused the Government of defying a "centuries-old convention" by not recommending that he enter the House of Lords.

"I have seen in the media that Lord Lisvane is formally complaining that I bullied staff," he said in a statement this week. 

"For the record, I categorically deny that I have ever bullied anyone, anywhere at any time."

Downing Street has described the earlier claims by Lord Lisvane as "very concerning" and said they "need to be investigated thoroughly".