Jeremy Corbyn slaps down Emily Thornberry over John Bercow bully row defence

Posted On: 
17th October 2018

Jeremy Corbyn has slapped down Labour frontbencher Emily Thornberry over her defence of John Bercow amid an ongoing bullying scandal in Parliament.

Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry Jeremy Corbyn has distanced himself from Ms Thornberry's remarks
Credit: 
PA Images

A spokesperson for the Labour leader said that Ms Thornberry was “giving a personal view” after she batted away calls for the Speaker to resign in the wake of a damning report into bullying in parliament.

The inquiry, led by Dame Laura Cox, suggested the Speaker should step down amid wider management changes and accused parliamentary bosses of allowing a “disturbing” culture of abuse to develop in Westminster which was "actively” covered up.

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But speaking after the report was released, Ms Thornberry said it was "absolutely not the time to be changing speaker" given the uncertainty around Brexit legislation.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary added: “We do need to have all hands to the deck at the moment.”

Mr Corbyn today distanced himself from her position, however, with a spokesperson for the Labour leader saying: "Jeremy’s view is that the issue of Brexit and the issue of bullying and harassment or abuse in Parliament or any workplace are entirely separate and shouldn’t be confused in any way.

"Emily said herself she was giving her personal view. It’s not Jeremy’s view and it is not the view of the Labour leadership."

Ms Thornberry had already drawn the ire of Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA trade union representing Commons clerks, who accused the Shadow Foreign Secretary of being "completely disingenuous".

He added: "Just last month, you were speaking at the TUC 150th Anniversary dinner about workers' rights. Now you're happy to ignore Dame Laura Cox's urgent calls and put party politics before people. Which side are you on?"

Mr Bercow - who has served in the role since 2009 - has meanwhile reportedly told friends he will stand aside in either June or July.

A source told the BBC: "He doesn't want it to look as if he's been forced out. But it may be it won't be enough, and some people will insist he goes much sooner."

But the Labour leader's spokesperson refused to be drawn on whether Mr Bercow should step down before that time.

“The issue of who is the speaker and their accountability is to the House not to political leader,” they added.

“That’s a matter for MPs as a whole.”

Mr Corbyn's spokesperson meanwhile would not confirm that the Labour had read Dame Laura's report, saying only that he was "aware" of it.

But he added: "The evidence that has been brought up in case after case is of a warped and degrading culture and not only here but in workplaces across the country and that must be fully addressed in the most robust processes with an independent dimension.

"Jeremy and the Labour party are well aware of the many failings and abuses that have taken place in parliament and they clearly need to be seriously addressed and tackled."