Labour MP who defended John Bercow told they're 'standing up for bullies'

MP for Huddersfield Barry Sheerman told the Commons former speaker John Bercow made 'some really good radical reforms'

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A Labour MP was accused of “standing up for bullies” after he defended former Commons speaker John Bercow.

Barry Sheerman, who represents Huddersfield, insisted Mr Bercow made “some really good radical reforms” in the Commons during his time as speaker.

But shouts of “he was a bully” and “you’re standing up for bullies” could be heard from other MPs in the chamber.

aAn independent report upheld 21 bullying and harassment complaints against Mr Bercow and labelled him a “serial bully” and a “serial liar” during his years in the speaker’s chair.

He stood down in 2019 after a decade in the role and was replaced by Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

Mr Bercow, who has now been banned from holding a parliamentary pass, described the investigation as a “travesty of justice” and insisted he has nothing to say sorry for.

Conservative MP for Wellingborough, Peter Bone, while asking a question in which he expressed concerns about the Electoral Commission, said of Mr Bercow: “This week, the former speaker of the House of Commons got his comeuppance for being mean and unfair to a number of people by bullying them by using his power.”

He said to Sir Lindsay: “It’s widely regarded across this House that you are fair and impartial.”

But Mr Sheerman told the Commons: “Can I just put it on record that I actually thought John Bercow, as speaker, made some really good radical reforms in this place? And I will not deny that after what this gentleman here said.”

File photo dated 31/10/19 of John Bercow. The Independent Expert Panel report into former Commons speaker John Bercow upheld a finding that he was a "serial bully" and said he should never again be allowed a parliamentary pass. Issue date: Tuesday March 8, 2022.
File photo dated 31/10/19 of John Bercow. The Independent Expert Panel report into former Commons speaker John Bercow upheld a finding that he was a "serial bully" and said he should never again be allowed a parliamentary pass. Issue date: Tuesday March 8, 2022.

Several Conservative MPs asked Commons Leader Mark Spencer for either a statement or debate in the Commons on the report into Mr Bercow’s conduct.

Caroline Johnson, Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, said the “scale of the bullying behaviour that it describes is horrific and must not happen again”.

Conservative former minister Sir Desmond Swayne told Mr Spencer: “He knows my woke credentials. And so will he make a statement next week on the need for certain contextual information to be provided under portraits in Speaker’s House?”

Mr Spencer said: “The safety of those who work on the estate is paramount. There is no place for bullying or harassment at Parliament, and by working cross-party we will ensure everybody working in Parliament is treated with dignity and respect.

“The independent complaints and grievance scheme aims to improve the working culture within Parliament. And I hope that this report shows that people can have confidence to proceed with any complaint that they have and that anybody guilty of such crimes will be held to account.”

He said the chairman of the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, Tory MP Dean Russell, “has made some comments that they will reflect upon portraits within the House”.

Conservative former minister Andrew Murrison said “serial bullying and serial lying has no place” in the Houses of Parliament and asked for an opportunity in the Commons to ensure “those who were prepared to eulogise the former speaker so royally upon his departure have an opportunity to refresh the House on their position now”.

Conservative Jane Hunt (Loughborough) described the report as “damning”, adding: “Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on this important topic?”

Mr Spencer replied: “There have been a number of questions of a similar nature this morning, clearly it is a topic which the House may want to debate and I will encourage her to apply for an adjournment debate or even a Westminster Hall debate given the amount of enthusiasm for the topic this morning.”

Conservative MP Mark Jenkinson (Workington) said: “The issues raised in the independent report into the behaviour of the former speaker published earlier this week risk dragging the reputation of this House into the mud; the continued support of some of the members on the benches opposite is a source of shame.”

Labour former minister John Spellar shouted “he was a Tory MP”, with a current Tory MP heard remarking: “You could have fooled me.”