Bullying Speaker in the UK – POLITICO

Sebastian Whale wrote Call to Order, a biography of former UK Speaker John Bercow. He is also a trade reporter for POLITICO.

LONDON – To many around the world, John Bercow will be remembered for removing the British government as speaker of the House of Commons during the seemingly endless Brexit debates. To some close to home, he was a “mass bully”, fickle and irritable.

He is a man who evokes polarizing views – including those who have worked with him.

“He was an intern bastard,” said a former colleague, requesting anonymity. “He’s really, really good at being upset. It’s a rather odd skill to have in life, and Bercow has it in abundance. “

A former member of Bercow’s election office had a markedly different experience. “He was a good boss; he’s a nice man,” they said. Describing Bercow as highly sensitive and “extremely empathetic”, they cannot reconcile accusations of bullying with someone they know. While acknowledging that he was short-tempered – something Bercow himself attests to – they never encountered anything that they deemed inappropriate.

Just over two years since he resigned after 10 years overseeing debates in the House, an independent report has concluded Bercow engaged in “serious and prolonged bullying” against three officials. office of the House of Representatives.

These conclusions were disastrous, not only for Bercow, but also for British politics. Bercow is at the center of proceedings as allegations of bullying and harassment at Westminster are first made disclosure by the BBC in 2018. Despite facing accusations, he remained in office until a day largely of his own choosing, supported by MPs who set their political agenda. top.

His controversial role overseeing the Commons as the UK leaves the European Union, and his willingness to use his position to try and change the course of Brexit has put him at the center of the turmoil. The biggest political upheaval Britain has faced since World War II. Some even argue that successive Conservative governments bullied Bercow. The politics are divided around the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc so divided it is difficult to find anyone in Westminster with a neutral view, a political scene that has brought up accusations of misconduct left is getting harder and harder – a prime example of why allegations of political bullying prove so difficult to handle.

Bercow condemned the findings as a “betrayal of justice”, claiming that Congressman Kathryn Stone presided over an “amateur” investigation.

Smash and scream

There’s not much going on when it comes to Bercow. For some, he is the last bastion against Brexit, a vanguard chair that holds an unruly executive whose procedural creativity, fortitude and savvy interpretation of the rules. Congressional. To others, he was a bully, even a tyrant, who had disgraced the unfair speaker position – and the British political system -.

Whether you fall into this line may depend on your political views or, more importantly, in the case of employees, on the type of relationship you have with Bercow.

Bercow has always steadfastly denied any charges against him.

Two of his accusers – Angus Sinclair and Kate Emms – successively served as Bercow’s private secretary. The third, Robert Rogers, is the Commons Secretary, the most senior member of the House of Commons service.

Others who decided not to formally appeal had similar experiences with previous speakers. One person who worked with Bercow said in 2020 on condition of anonymity: “You don’t have to go to work feeling like you’re about to enter a war zone.

They describe a man who can be “evil” in his language and tone, prone to “stuffing,” which can include slamming, slamming doors and screaming. They also recalled the employee had to reassemble Bercow’s phone after he threw it in a fit of rage. There are factors to watch out for, especially if Arsenal Football Club or Roger Federer – two of his great sports lovers – have suffered defeat. “It’s not normal,” they said.

Often the person feels targeted just for giving Bercow news he doesn’t want to hear.

Another person unrelated to the charges against Bercow told me they had several encounters with the speaker previously characterized by “rage, anger, and bullying-type episodes.” .”

In response to these accusations, Bercow said on Tuesday: “I completely reject these mythical claims. There is no substance to any of them. In fact, I’ve had a great team in Speakers’ Building for a decade and have a great relationship with them. “

There are many more anecdotes from people who have worked with Bercow during his 22-year congressional career.

Former employees say that Bercow was not afraid of people seeing his behavior, he left traces of witnesses. On one occasion, Bercow told Rogers to “damn it” when he interrupted the meeting, according to a former official in the room. Bercow has denied this.

A friend of Bercow’s said his critics “haven’t seen the John I know.” Others who have interacted with the former speaker, including many MPs, have mentioned his kindness and generosity, which instilled a sense of loyalty that was exemplified during Bercow’s most challenging times in the country. Commons.

Even his accusers note that Bercow can be charming and cute, though that dual personality only makes them more difficult, unsure of what to expect.

Modernization Mission

Bercow was elected Speaker in June 2009 on a reformed platform. From introducing on-site daycare to encouraging supporters, he has sought to modernize and update the House of Representatives in the wake of the cost scandal.

With Bercow, several House staffers presented obstacles to his plan.

Speaking to his accusers during his public appearance, Bercow said: “One feature that has hitherto been shared by some detractors… is that they are institutionalized. They are resistant to change and they are people who have long been accustomed to not only having their voices but also their ways. “

Bercow believes that his quest to replace them all – the totem and the necessary vehicles – creates a lasting blind spot for his behavior. “In the end, someone has to prevail, and I think the speaker… has the right to carry on as he intended to do,” Bercow said during a public appearance.

The different accounts of different people who worked with Bercow show a clear pattern. “There is likely to be a difference between how he might treat the precinct staff who are really just there to support him,” the former precinct employee is quoted as saying in the statement. the beginning of the article. “While I suspect when he walks in, he may not 100% feel that all of the speaker’s office is wholeheartedly moving in the right direction.”

Those who submit a bullying complaint for the investigation have a role in which they will face Bercow. Clerks offered procedural advice, which Bercow was notoriously unafraid of objections. Private secretaries keep the speaker’s agenda updated, prepare papers and summaries, and act as interlocutors with MPs. Any deviations from the plan or unwelcome messages are not welcome.

Meanwhile, politicians, after finishing Bercow’s rampage in the room, often do so because they show dissent or claim disrespect to the chairman.

Bercow’s disdain for being thwarted (as he saw it) has its roots in his early life. Bullied at school while his parents split at home, Bercow’s past is as complicated as his present: a journey that takes him from the anti-immigrant right to the liberal left. He felt he had to fight for things in his political career that would otherwise be more accessible to those from a more privileged background.

Such dynamics can be political luck: achieving reform ultimately is no easy feat. Determination is a prerequisite – but poor treatment of co-workers is not.

The problem with reaching a satisfactory verdict on Bercow is that his legacy is yet another backdrop in the ideological battle raging on British politics. His staunch loyalists – many of whom have been gilded by his actions on Brexit – will continue to defend him despite the findings of the inquest. His detractors often use the allegations against Bercow to pursue their own companies and continue to demonstrate double standards when it comes to other allegations of bullying.

Amid all the noise and political buzz, Commons staff say they are mistreated and unsupported while others put their own agenda first.

A Commons staffer said: “The humiliation suffered by staff at his hands is well known in Westminster. Many MPs from all sides turned a blind eye to go beyond their own ends, while shedding crocodile tears over victims of bullying and harassment in public. “

Some opinions may not change despite today’s news, given the constancy surrounding Bercow. Indeed, the former speaker ready-made the results of the investigation to declare it a “kangaroo court.”

While there is little sign of meaningful change arising from this case, those for whom this has been a long and damaging ordeal finally have some end.

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