Great Britain

Giving Bercow peerage would be scandal, says former Black Rod

Giving John Bercow a peerage would be a scandal 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, has told the BBC that Bercow’s nomination to sit in the House of Lords by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is inappropriate because of the way he was treated and his behaviour towards other 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 now submitted a dossier on Bercow to the parliamentary commissioner for standards since first raising his concerns about him in 2018.

On Bercow’s suggestion, they did not work together as the Black Rod position is a role in 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 Speaker had “brutalised people” with angry mood swings and outbursts.

He told the BBC’s Radio 4 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 during his time as chief clerk to the Commons. He left the post in 2014.

Bercow denies these 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 has said the bullying claims against him are total and utter rubbish.

He said on Tuesday night: “Absurdly, preposterously, he’s turning up years later commenting on matters he couldn’t possibly know about because he had already left.”

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said it was “unlikely” that a former senior military officer such as Leakey could have been bullied by Bercow. “Allegations come from former parliamentary official David Leakey,” she said.

“He had been a lieutenant general who served in Germany, Northern Ireland and Bosnia, but claims he was bullied (i.e. intimidated and coerced) by John Bercow. Unlikely.”

Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott)

Allegations come from former parliamentary official David Leakey. He had been a Lieutenant General who served in Germany, Northern Ireland and Bosnia. But claims he was bullied (i.e. intimidated and coerced) by John Bercow. Unlikely. https://t.co/a3Z7rcJed1

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