In Depth

John Bercow bullying claims: what we know so far

The former Commons speaker’s hopes of a peerage could be dashed by fresh allegations about his treatment of staff

John Bercow is facing a threat to his potential entry into the House of Lords after being accused once again of bullying. 

Former chief Commons clerk Robert Rogers, also known as Lord Lisvane, has filed a formal complaint about Bercow’s treatment of his staff during his tenure as speaker of the House of Commons.  

The bullying claims are by no means the first against Bercow. However, MPs on the Commons Standards Committee voted against an investigation into his conduct back in 2018.

What are the latest allegations?

According to The Times, Rogers has handed a dossier of allegations to the parliamentary commissioner for standards - an independent officer responsible for enforcing the code of conduct for MPs.

Rogers served as Bercow’s top aide from 2011 to 2014 in his role as clerk of the House, the principal constitutional adviser to the Commons.

The dossier is believed to includes details of incidents when the then-speaker “bullied and humiliated” staff, including using inappropriate language, the newspaper says.

In a statement responding to Rogers’ claims, Bercow said: “During the five years that we worked together, Lord Lisvane had ample opportunity to raise any accusations of bullying with me. 

“At no stage did he do so... the timing of this intervention is curious.”

And what were the previous claims? 

In 2018, Bercow’s former private secretary Angus Sinclair broke a non-disclosure agreement to allege that he had faced angry outbursts and obscene language from his ex-boss.

During an interview with the BBC’s Newsnight, Sinclair claimed that Bercow responded to errors in “a way that I can only say is a form of bullying. And that is to show anger, to thump the table, to say that somebody has failed in front of others.”

David Leakey, who served as Black Rod until 2017, also claimed that Bercow had shouted at him and acted in a way that was “by any definition bullying”, the Daily Mail reports. Leakey described the ex-speaker as “intimidating, unreasonable, disproportionate”, adding that he left staff “fearful”. 

Kate Emms, another aide to Bercow, was signed off sick and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after less than a year working in his office, according to the BBC

Bercow has “strenuously denied” all of the bullying allegations. 

What happens next?

In a break from convention, Bercow was not nominated for a peerage by the government when he stepped down from the speaker’s chair.

But The Sunday Times reports that he is believed to have been nominated by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who can also put forward candidates for entry to the House of Lords.

PoliticsHome says Downing Street has already called the nomination into question, on the grounds that “the peerage - which must be vetted by the House of Lords appointments commission - may not be in the Labour leader’s gift unless Mr Bercow becomes a member of the party”.

And the fresh bullying claims may prove a “fatal blow” to his lingering hopes of a seat in the upper house, adds The Times. 

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