EXCL John Bercow behaviour 'unworthy of someone in public office', says former Black Rod

Posted On: 
2nd May 2018

Commons Speaker John Bercow's behaviour is "unworthy of someone in such public office", according to a former senior Westminster official.

David Leakey with John Bercow at last year's State Opening of Parliament.
Credit: 
PA Images

David Leakey, who retired in 2017 after seven years as Black Rod, also said allegations of bullying against Mr Bercow by former aides "risks bringing Parliament into disrepute".

His comments are likely to further increase pressure on the Speaker, with Downing Street already having called for a full investigation into the claims.

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Mr Leakey said the Commons Speaker was "genuinely intimidating" and revealed that he had personally experienced his bad temper.

He said: "On one occasion he quite suddenly erupted in a rage, banging the table and being extremely and personally rude to me, including calling me an anti-Semite. He did apologise to me for that specific remark afterwards, but not for his other highly personal insults, and it is intolerable.

"His rage erupted, as on a previous occasion, and the red mist suddenly descended: it was quite disproportionate and unreasonable by any standards.

"His explosive and intemperate behaviour is legendary, objectionable and unworthy of someone in such public office – conduct which may not stand up to the standards expected in public life. There were lots of people who were, frankly, terrified of the Speaker."

Mr Leakey's comments follow claims of bullying against Mr Bercow by two of his former parliamentary secretaries.

Angus Sinclair claimed he was subjected to a string of angry outbursts, swearing and mimicry while working for the Speaker, and was paid £86,250 when he quit in 2010 in a deal that required him to promise not to speak about his experiences.

Mr Bercow was previously alleged to have shouted at and undermined Mr Sinclair's successor as his private secretary, Kate Emms, eventually leading to her being signed off sick.

A spokesman for the Speaker has vehemently denied the accusation by both former staffers.

But Mr Leakey, whose role as Black Rod regularly brought him into close contact with Mr Bercow, said: "“This issue is now out in the open. It risks bringing Parliament, not just the Commons, into disrepute.

"For Parliament not to investigate rigorously sets a poor example; it would risk putting this on the same radar as the expenses scandal. This can no longer be simply swept under the carpet."

He added: "He has spoken out strongly against the culture of bullying in Parliament, and this just seems to reek of hypocrisy."

A spokesman for the Speaker's office said: "Mr Speaker refutes all the allegations levelled by Mr Leakey. John Bercow and David Leakey are two very different people with very different backgrounds, perspectives and ideas. They had fundamental disagreements in 2011 and 2012, but interacted adequately after that."

AMICABLE

In the Commons yesterday, Mr Bercow said: "I have a superb team of dedicated, effective and long-serving staff, five of whom have served me for a collective total of over 40 years. 

"I am also happy to confirm that the great majority of people who have left my service on perfectly amicable terms."

It emerged last month that an inquiry headed by Dame Laura Cox QC into claims of bullying by MPs would not look at historical cases, including allegations against Mr Bercow.

But a spokesman for the Prime Minister said that probe was one of the ways in which the House of Commons could investigate the claims.

The spokesman also suggested the House authorities could launch their own investigation, as could the parliamentary standards commissioner.

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom also heaped pressure on Mr Bercow.

She said: "It is for Dame Laura Cox QC to consider whether the terms of reference of her independent inquiry need to be expanded, to allow for individual investigations to take place. I’m sure she will be looking very carefully."

"We must call out unacceptable behaviour and stand by the House staff who do so much for us."