John Bercow: An Incorrigible Delinquent?
John Bercow has told friends he is to step down as Speaker, according to the BBC. This follows Dame Laura Cox’s report into bullying and sexual harassment of House of Commons staff which says the existing senior leadership team in the Commons – including the Speaker – are probably incapable of changing the current ‘toxic culture’. But this is not Bercow taking responsibility. In fact, he isn’t even announcing anything new. He will retire next June, which has been the plan since May of this year. (credit: Isabel Hardman)
The Speaker had been facing increasing calls to quit after an independent report published this week condemned the toxic culture in Westminster, and found some senior figures had failed to adequately address allegations of sexual harassment and bullying in the Houses of Parliament. Maria Miller, the Tory chairman of the Commons’ Women and Equalities select committee, said a “management change” was desperately needed in the House of Commons and what is clear is that the bullying and harassment are coming right from the top.
The Speaker has called for an independent body to investigate the allegations, as a number of MPs told him that he should quit. But, it was striking how many members spoke up in favour of him. There have long been suspicions among backbenchers that Bercow tends to call certain supportive MPs earlier in debates than their status would demand. But, because Commons status is a nebulous concept, it was almost impossible to prove anything substantive. But, it was certainly the case that a number of those speaking – from both sides – were more interested in the political implications for them of changing Speaker rather than the matter of sexual harassment and bullying. Which rather suggests that the culture in the Commons isn’t going to change just yet.