Giving John Bercow a peerage would be a scandal that parliament would struggle to live down, according to the man accusing the former Speaker of bullying and explosive behaviour.
Lt Gen David Leakey, who served in the role of Black Rod for seven years, told the BBC that Bercow’s nomination for a peerage by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was inappropriate because of his behaviour towards staff members.
Bercow vehemently denies he bullied Leakey, claiming the pair did not work closely together and questioning the timing of him making the allegations.
“I think that if John Bercow was given a peerage in the House of Lords it would be a scandal which parliament would struggle to live down,” said Leakey, who has submitted a dossier on Bercow to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, having first raised his concerns about him in 2018.
On Bercow’s suggestion they did not work together as the Black Rod role mainly relates to the Lords. Leakey said around 30% of his work was for the Commons.
He said: “Mr Bercow on his own admission has said that we had two altercations and he’s admitted those, so that is the case. Obviously John Bercow clearly can’t understand, or can’t remember, how the role of Black Rod operates in the House of Commons.”
He alleged that the former Speaker “brutalised people” with angry mood swings and outbursts. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “He would fly into a rage, the red mist would descend … jumping up and down and balling out. He called me an antisemite once after being rather rude and insulting about my background, education and military career.
“That’s the sort of intolerable behaviour which I called out. I think that John Bercow suggested this is rather opportunistic, but it’s not. I called him out two years ago and I did so because I was speaking up for people who were either unwilling to speak out for themselves or for one reason or another. I think some people have admitted they had gagging clauses and non-disclosure agreements when they left the Commons.”
Lord Lisvane has also made a complaint of bullying, humiliation and use of inappropriate language to staff witnessed during his time as chief clerk to the Commons. He left the post in 2014.
Bercow denies the claims against him. He is the first former Speaker not be offered a peerage by the government in 230 years. He was widely seen by the Tories as being hostile to the government over Brexit by allowing remain-backing MPs considerable time in the Commons to shape the parliamentary timetable.
Bercow said of Leakey on Tuesday: “Absurdly, preposterously, he’s turning up years later commenting on matters he couldn’t possibly know about because he had already left.”
The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said it was “unlikely” that a former senior military officer such as Leakey could have been bullied by Bercow. “He had been a lieutenant general who served in Germany, Northern Ireland and Bosnia, but claims he was bullied (ie intimidated and coerced) by John Bercow. Unlikely,” she tweeted.