A former Commons clerk has said that the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow called her a ‘little girl’ when she was unable to find the envelope he was looking for.
Libby Bradshaw, who worked in Westminster for 12 years before leaving, said Parliament is haemorrhaging talent as a result of the way staff are treated.
She said calls for change set out in a report into bullying and harassment in the Commons are in ‘danger of being drowned by politics again’.
Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow called a former Commons Clerk a ‘little girl’ when she was unable to find the envelope he was looking for
In an article for HuffPost UK, Ms Bradshaw wrote: ‘There has been a haemorrhage of talent from Parliament because of this issue alone and some of the brightest, most capable people I worked with are no longer there because of the treatment they received.
‘This is not only bad for public service, but it turns the patriarchy into a self-fulfilling prophecy in one of the most high-profile organisations in the country.
‘The House of Commons Commission will have a large role in what happens next.
‘The Commission is made up of some of these senior managers along with the Speaker who, when he was just a regular backbencher, once screamed at me and called me a ‘little girl’ simply because he had been unable to find an envelope (which was exactly where I said it was, for the record).’
A probe by High Court judge Dame Laura Cox lifted the lid on a toxic environment in Westminster and led to MPs calling for Mr Bercow to quit
Conservative MPs called for Mr Bercow to quit after a probe by High Court judge Dame Laura Cox lifted the lid on a toxic environment in Westminster.
The damning report this week found some male politicians were guilty of ‘predatory’ behaviour, with women in Westminster complaining that male MPs had been abused in ‘vulgar gender-related terms’ and even touched their bottoms and breasts.
The report also said that some male MPs were so well known for their lewd advances that women were privately warned never to be in a room alone with them.
What are the claims of bullying and bad behaviour made against John Bercow?
John Bercow has been hit by a number of bullying claims, all of which he denies. Here are the allegations:
Andrew Sinclair, the former Speaker’s Secretary:
Said he left his post in 2010 after he was subjected to angry outbursts, foul- mouthed tirades and mimicry by John Bercow.
He said was ‘gagged’ and stopped from speaking out about his time in the role as part of an £86,000 early retirement payoff.
David Leakey, former Black Rod:
Mr Leakey, who retired last year, said staff were ‘terrified’ of the Speaker.
Kate Emms, John Bercow’s former private secretary:
She took a job as Mr Bercow’s private secretary in May 2010 but left her role less than a year later in February 2011 amid claims she was bullied by the Speaker.
Her colleagues alleged that this was because of the behaviour of Mr Bercow after she told staff that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Colleagues told Newsnight that she was undermined by Mr Bercow in a range of ways – and he seemed to shout at her a lot.
But Labour’s Dame Margaret Beckett faced criticism when she said she believed the constitutional future of the country as a result of Brexit ‘trumps bad behaviour’.
Dame Laura’s report found a culture of ‘deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence’ had allowed the mistreatment of staff in the House of Commons to thrive.
She said it was ‘difficult to envisage’ how the reforms needed could be delivered under the current senior House administration.
Earlier this week Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry insisted John Bercow should stay on as Speaker and said it was ‘absolutely not the time to be changing Speaker’, as the UK leaves the EU.
Emily Thornberry, have said John Bercow must stay on as Speaker to ensure MPs have a decisive say on the UK’s EU exit.
In her article, Ms Bradshaw, who contributed to the Cox Report, said she knew of dozens of former colleagues who had been bullied, assaulted and abused while working in Parliament.
She added: ‘The Cox Report should be a pivotal moment in Parliament’s evolution into a modern workplace and those of us that contributed to the inquiry felt relieved and vindicated that we had finally been believed when we read the report and recommendations.
‘But there is already talk that the report could get kicked into the long grass and the tribal warfare surrounding the Speaker, and Brexit, have meant that this issue that has affected so many lives and careers is in danger of being drowned by politics again.’
A spokeswoman for Mr Bercow said: ‘The Speaker has absolutely no recollection of this alleged incident – and it’s not, in his experience, the sort of statement he would make.’
To be continued
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