MP suggests ‘explanatory plaques’ should go alongside Bercow’s portrait

Conservative MP Dr Caroline Johnson made the query “in the light of this report and the need to set history in context”.

08 March 2022

An MP has asked if “explanatory plaques” could be put alongside former Commons speaker John Bercow’s portrait in Parliament after a report found him guilty of bullying.

Conservative Dr Caroline Johnson, who represents Sleaford and North Hykeham, made the query “in the light of this report and the need to set history in context” as she raised a point of order in the Commons.

She said: “Mr Bercow has been shown in this report to be a serial bully, to have displayed undermining behaviour towards the staff of this House and it describes a catalogue of dreadful conduct which is clearly unacceptable, risks damaging the reputation of this House and must never be allowed to happen again.

“There are a number of records of Mr Bercow’s period in office throughout this building which could have to be seen on a potentially daily basis by his victims. In the light of this report and the need to set history in context, is there any intention on the basis of Mr Speaker or the Speaker’s office to put explanatory plaques alongside these, such as next to Mr Bercow’s portrait in Speaker’s House.”

Responding, deputy speaker Nigel Evans said: “Clearly, this puts the chair in an invidious position. As far as any plaques being erected or what is going to follow on from the report, I’ve not had an opportunity to read the report myself at this moment in time, so I can’t comment on it, but what I would say is that there is a business statement that will be occurring on Thursday at the normal time.”

Raising another Commons point of order, Conservative Michael Fabricant, the MP for Lichfield, called for a debate on how Mr Bercow’s “terror of bullying” could have “lasted so long”.

He said “21 separate allegations were proved and have been upheld”, according to the report, by the Independent Expert Panel (IEP), and added: “The House may feel that his conduct brought the high office of speaker into disrepute.

“This was behaviour which had no place in any workplace. Members of staff in this House should not be expected to have to tolerate it as a part of every day life and I concur. Now there were many people in this House, I included, who tried to raise this on several occasions when John Bercow was speaker, but nothing was done.“I feel that not only has John Bercow been shown to be of a disreputable nature, but in some ways this House has been put into disrepute and I simply ask you, will there be any occasion for the leader of the House to come here and make a statement about this damning report and the damning report about John Bercow and also give an opportunity to debate how on earth this could have lasted so long, this terror of bullying?”

Mr Bercow has been branded a “serial liar” and banned from holding a pass to Parliament following the investigation.

Parliament’s IEP, which determines appeals and sanctions in cases where bullying complaints have been brought against MPs, said it would have also recommended he be expelled from the House if he were still a sitting member.

Mr Bercow called the investigation a “travesty of justice” which “brings shame on the House of Commons”.

He said he has “never applied for” a Parliamentary pass and does not want one.

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