In Brief

PM backs calls for inquiry into bullying allegations against John Bercow

Commons Speaker ‘strongly denies’ claims by former private secretary

Theresa May has backed calls for an investigation into John Bercow following fresh bullying allegations against the Commons Speaker.

Bercow’s former private secretary, Angus Sinclair, is the latest in a string of people who have accused him of aggressive behaviour.  Breaking a non-disclosure agreement during an interview with BBC2’s Newsnight, Sinclair claimed that his ex-boss was prone to “over-the-top anger” and that he was “not sure he was completely in control of it”.

The former Royal Navy officer said he had been subjected to angry outbursts, obscene language and mimicry from Bercow, and even accused the MP of smashing a phone on his desk.

Sinclair added that he had been paid £86,250 in 2010 as part of a deal that required him to sign a non-disclosure agreement with Bercow, but had now decided to break that deal. 

“I thought to myself, it’s in the public interest to know why I left. Yes, it breaks that non-disclosure agreement, but it’s the truth. There was bullying,” he said.

In early March, Newsnight spoke to dozens of female Westminister staff who also described “aggressive and threatening behaviour” by Bercow. He was accused of bullying a senior member of his parliamentary staff out of her job.

Responding to the latest allegations, his office said: “Mr Speaker strongly denies there is any substance to any of these accusations.

“Mr Speaker has a super team of dedicated, effective and long-serving staff - five of whom have worked for him very happily for a combined total of over 40 years.”

But No. 10 today suggested that he should be investigating, amid growing calls for action.

May’s spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister has been very clear from the start that there is no place for bullying or harassment of any kind in the workplace, including Parliament.

“It’s a matter for Parliament to decide how to proceed but the latest allegations are concerning and should be properly investigated. It’s important to note the Speaker denies the allegations.”

Hours earlier, Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen, a long-time critic of Bercow, had insisted that the Speaker should “consider his position in the wake of the fresh allegations”. 

“I think, at a time when we are looking for culture change in the House of Commons with regard to bullying and harassment, I think that’s very difficult if the titular head of that organisation is mired in these allegations,” Bridgen told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“We don’t know whether he has misled the House unless there is a full investigation, but he holds such power in the House of Commons that it is very difficult to have an independent investigation.”

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