WATCH: John McDonnell says removing John Bercow over bullying row would be a ‘cop out’
Removing John Bercow as Commons Speaker would be a “cop out” that would not solve Parliament’s bullying and harassment scandal, Labour’s John McDonnell has said.
The Speaker has been under pressure in recent weeks after a searing independent report by Dame Laura Cox found that bullying, harassment and sexual harassment in Parliament had been “tolerated and concealed”.
The report suggested Mr Bercow and a host of other senior parliamentary officials should quit their roles to help usher in a new workplace culture at the Palace of Westminster.
The Speaker is also facing allegations - which he has strenuously denied - that he bullied two of his own parliamentary aides.
But Mr McDonnell today batted away calls for Mr Bercow to step down and accused the Speaker’s critics of “targeting one individual” to deflect attention from a wider problem.
“It is not down to one person,” the Labour frontbencher told Sky News.
“If we think that removing one person will solve this matter we are kidding ourselves. And I think it’s an easy way of people just having a cop out on all of this.”
The Shadow Chancellor added: “If people think we’ll just have some form of stunt to get rid of the speaker and that will resolve it - it won’t. It’s much more deep-seated than that.”
Mr McDonnell’s remarks come after Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry suggested Mr Bercow should stay on to help steer key Brexit legislation through the Commons.
Ms Thornberry said it was "absolutely not the time to be changing Speaker" - and later heaped praise on his record.
But Mr McDonnell strongly denied any link between Labour’s decision not to call for the Speaker to quit and the perception that Mr Bercow is sympathetic to Labour or likely to help with its Brexit position.
“That’s ridiculous,” he said.
“The issues have got nothing to do with one another. And this issue of bullying in the House of Commons is more important than anything else in terms of how we manage the Parliamentary estate.”
The intervention by the Shadow Chancellor came just hours after the House of Commons Commission, which is chaired by Mr Bercow and oversees HR policy in Parliament, backed the key recommendations of Dame Laura’s inquiry.
The Commission acknowledged that it had "too often failed to provide a workplace free from bullying and harassment", and backed a call for historic allegations of bullying and harassment by MPs and peers to be opened up to scrutiny.
"Bullying and harassment have no place in the House of Commons, or in any area of public life,” the group said.
"The persistence of this problem has rightly called into question the culture and leadership of the House of Commons.
“We acknowledge that we have a proactive role to play in improving the culture of the House Service, and therefore are resolved to ensure that Dame Laura Cox's report marks the moment where we commit to swift and lasting change."
Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, Mr Bercow said: "I believe this is an important first step in our root and branch reform of the culture of this House. We need to create an internal movement which looks at everything and everyone, and ensures that we all treat each other with respect."
In a sign of fresh pressure on the Speaker, three Tory MPs this week pulled out of a parliamentary committee in protest at his continued chairmanship.