Bercow accuser stands by bullying claims against former speaker

A former senior parliamentary official who has accused John Bercow of bullying has told Sky News that he stands by his allegations.

David Leakey, who served as Black Rod until 2018, told Kay Burley@Breakfast that the former speaker would “lose the plot, the red mist would descend, he’d jump up and down, thump the table, bawl out insults to me”.

Speaking to Sky News on Tuesday, Mr Bercow had dismissed the claims as “total and utter rubbish”.

John Bercow denies bullying allegations during his tenure as Speaker
Bercow: Accuser is a ‘know-nothing’

When the former speaker’s denial was put to him, Mr Leakey said Mr Bercow was “perfectly entitled to protest his innocence”.

But he said in his role he “saw and knew a lot about what was going on in the House of Commons”.

Black Rod is a senior official in the House of Lords who is responsible for controlling access to the chamber and maintaining order.

Pressed on what evidence he had to substantiate his claims, Mr Leakey said: “Well, he did it to me.”

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He added: “He called me an antisemite once and was extremely rude about my background, education and military career.

“I’ve never come across that in my 46 years of working in public service.”

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Bercow: Bullying claims are ‘utter rubbish’

Mr Leakey has accused the former speaker of bullying him over the years and said several highly ranking parliamentary staff and politicians had told him privately they were bullied by Mr Bercow.

Lord Lisvane, the former clerk of the House of Commons, has also submitted a dossier of allegations against Mr Bercow to the Parliamentary Standards Authority.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott wrote on Twitter that it was “unlikely” a former senior military officer like Mr Leakey could have been bullied by Mr Bercow.

She later deleted the tweet after coming in for criticism for the remark.

John Bercow denied bullying anyone while he was speaker, saying his accuser David Leakey is completely and utterly ignorant
Image: John Bercow denied bullying anyone while he was speaker, saying his accuser David Leakey is completely and utterly ignorant

Labour MP Jess Phillips called Ms Abbott’s tweet “thoughtless” and said she “probably regrets it and didn’t mean it in those terms”.

She told Sky News: “That is just not my experience of victims of abuse and violence – which I’m not suggesting that he is without an investigation.

“But, it goes against the grain of all victims’ services that victims are weak and become victims because of their weaknesses. Anybody can be a victim of harassment, bullying and abuse.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re the highest ranking officer in the army right to the people sweeping the floors.

“There isn’t a class issue, there isn’t a group of people who can’t be a victim of abuse.

“Unfortunately, partly, in that tweet, the suggestion is that ‘well we like John Bercow so we don’t have to have the same standards’.

“Now, I like John Bercow but he deserves to be tested by the same tests we would apply to everyone.”

In his interview, which took place before Ms Abbott’s comments, Mr Leakey said much of what took place with the former speaker was “water off a duck’s back”, because “frankly I’ve been shouted at by enough sergeant majors in my military training as a young officer”.

“But that’s not the point,” he continued.

“He tried to intimidate me, he did it to other people. He should be called out.”

Responding in detail to the claims against him, Mr Bercow told Sky News in an exclusive interview: “[Mr Leakey] doesn’t know what my relationship was with my clerks.

“He has absolutely no intelligence on those matters whatsoever.

“What we have here is a person who had left the House, is thrashing about, desperate to remain relevant, popping up at every turn, trying to make himself seem very important, centre stage, at the heart of things in the way I went about my work.”

John Bercow
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Mr Bercow, who was a controversial figure during 10 years in the speaker’s chair, confirmed in the interview reports that he had been nominated for a peerage by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Leakey denied timing his intervention to try and derail this.

He said: “This is not an opportunistic thing. I haven’t just come up with this in the last few days because he’s been nominated for a peerage by Jeremy Corbyn.

“I raised this two years ago and the reason I raised it then was because there were other people who were being bullied and intimidated in the way that he tried to intimidate me.”

Mr Leakey said the former speaker entering the House of Lords would be “a scandal that parliament would struggle to live down”.

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