‘Kangaroo court’ has found me guilty of bullying, says John Bercow

Former Speaker denounces parliamentary inquiry and says he has appealed against its findings

A parliamentary inquiry will conclude that John Bercow, the former Speaker, bullied three House of Commons members of staff, he has revealed, denouncing it as as “kangaroo court”.

The parliamentary commissioner for standards, Kathryn Stone, has found Bercow guilty on 21 counts out of 35 brought by Robert Lisvane, the former clerk of the Commons, and private secretaries Kate Emms and Angus Sinclair, he told the Sunday Times.

The former Speaker, who stood down in 2019, said he is appealing against Stone’s ruling, with a final decision expected by the end of the month.

Bercow said that after 18 months of being bound by confidentiality, he had decided to speak out because, despite participants being told they should not discuss the process, his accusers had not observed confidentiality and had criticised him publicly. If the verdict is upheld, he could be banned from parliament for life or face a censure motion.

Bercow told the Sunday Times that the allegations against him were based largely on hearsay and that in many cases evidence was taken from people who were not present when the incidents under scrutiny took place.

He also claimed that in seven cases, the investigators pronounced him innocent only for Stone to reverse the decision and find him guilty. The former Speaker said the burden of proof had effectively been reversed so he had to prove his innocence rather than his accusers having to prove his guilt.

“I’m appealing on the basis that the investigations are materially flawed and that the decisions are unsound,” he said. “I resent massively my reputation being put through the wringer on the basis of a protracted, amateurish and unjust process.”

Among the accusations, all of which he denies, that Bercow said had been made against him were:

  • Throwing a mobile phone on two occasions nearly 12 years ago.

  • Staring hatefully at an employee 11 years ago.

  • ‘Ghosting’ a staffer on a plane.

  • Swearing at an employee on an uncertain date in 2009.

  • Making a racially and sexually discriminatory remark.

Bercow admitted that he was a divisive – “Marmite” – figure and that he could be ratty and wind people up but insisted he had “hugely collegiate” relations with his team. Criticising the way the inquiry was conducted, he said: “To call it a kangaroo court is unfair to kangaroos.”

Bercow said claims brought against him by David Leakey, a former parliamentary Black Rod, were rejected by the inquiry.

Lord Lisvane criticised Bercow for making assertions “which are not true” and said the former Speaker had “casually broken” the confidentiality undertakings that bound everyone involved in the inquiry.

He told the Sunday Times: “When I am released from the duty of confidentiality and all the documents in the inquiry are published, the record will be clear.”

Bercow suggested there was animosity towards him because of his attempts to reform parliamentary procedure and modernise the operations of the Commons.

Bercow was the first Speaker in more than two centuries to step down and not be nominated for the Lords by the government. Boris Johnson’s government resisted elevating Bercow, reportedly in part because of bullying claims but also because of his role in helping MPs to better scrutinise and amend the Brexit process.

The former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn nominated Bercow for a peerage but it was refused. Last year, Bercow announced he was switching his political allegiance to Labour, describing the Conservative party under Johnson as ““reactionary, populist, nationalistic and sometimes even xenophobic”.


Haroon Siddique Legal affairs correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
John Bercow found to be ‘serial bully’ and liar by independent inquiry
Ex-Speaker should have been expelled from parliament had he remained an MP, panel says

Jessica Elgot and Rowena Mason

08, Mar, 2022 @6:54 PM

Article image
What has John Bercow done now?
Everything you need to know about decision by Commons Speaker to stop MPs voting for third time on PM’s deal

Peter Walker Political correspondent

18, Mar, 2019 @6:59 PM

Article image
Theresa May ‘surprised’ John Bercow allowed Brexit amendment
British PM calls on Commons Speaker to ‘explain decision’ as she emphasises ‘set of rules’

Dan Sabbagh

10, Jan, 2019 @8:04 PM

Article image
Race is on to replace John Bercow as Commons Speaker
Deputy speakers, Labour veterans and Tory MPs among the expected candidates Brexit latest - live

Rajeev Syal and Rowena Mason

09, Sep, 2019 @3:03 PM

Article image
‘Rude and threatening’: the main findings of the John Bercow bullying inquiry
An independent panel upheld multiple complaints against the former Commons Speaker, calling him unreliable and dishonest

Jessica Elgot

08, Mar, 2022 @5:57 PM

Article image
Giving Bercow peerage would be scandal, says former Black Rod
Lt Gen David Leakey, who accused ex-Speaker of ‘intolerable behaviour’, says nomination should be rejected

Kate Proctor Political correspondent

05, Feb, 2020 @9:23 AM

Article image
John Bercow: fresh bullying allegations are concerning, says May
PM calls for allegations that Commons Speaker is prone to ‘over-the-top anger’ to be formally investigated

Heather Stewart, Jessica Elgot and Rajeev Syal

02, May, 2018 @5:21 PM

Article image
John Bercow’s protests over bullying verdicts have ‘not a shred of credibility’
Complainant Lord Lisvane says refusal to accept verdict is ‘hysterical petulance from someone caught bang to rights’

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

09, Mar, 2022 @3:22 PM

Article image
John Bercow faces further claims of bullying
Speaker of the House denies the fresh allegations made by a former private secretary

Pippa Crerar

01, May, 2018 @9:30 PM

Article image
John Bercow letter inflames unrest over Commons clerk

Disclosure that Speaker thinks job should be split in two prompts MPs to renew call for rethink of Australian's appointment

Andrew Sparrow, political correspondent

24, Aug, 2014 @8:31 PM