Former Buckingham MP John Bercow defends himself against 'bullying' report findings
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Buckingham's former MP has defended himself after an inquiry which found him guilty of bullying and harassment of parliamentary staff.
The report by an independent expert panel into the conduct of John Bercow, the former Speaker of the House of Commons, published on Tuesday, March 8, called him "a serial bully" and "a serial liar".
The report said: "The ICGS Bullying and Harassment Policy was breached repeatedly and extensively by the most senior member of the House of Commons.
"In all, 21 separate allegations were proved and have been upheld. 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 the House should not be expected to have to tolerate it as part of everyday life. No person at work however senior, indeed particularly such a senior figure, should behave in this way. This was an abuse of power."
But in an interview with Roberto Perrone of BBC Three Counties Radio, Mr Bercow denied the findings and said there was no independent evidence to support them.
He said: "There is no video evidence, there's no audio evidence, there's no email evidence, there's no text evidence. What it amounts to, therefore, is who says what and who responds how. In other words, one person's word against another, a very long time later."
Asked why he thought the complaints had been brought against him, Mr Bercow said: "I will tell you why. The complainants were all deeply hostile to me, and I had a very, very determined and thoroughgoing programme of reform that I wanted to implement, and that met with intense resistance."
He added: "One of the complainants also felt I should be told who would work in my office and who wouldn't. I insisted on running my office, not being run by it, and that was the source of incredible resentment a decade later."
Asked about allegations of temper outbursts, Mr Bercow said: "We all can get frustrated from time to time. I'm not saying I was never irritable about anything. That would be an extraordinary claim to make and one would have to be some sort of saint to fall into that category.
"What I am saying is that the cases were all about a specific set of allegations in relation to particular incidents, and I've engaged with and given evidence in relation to each and every one of those, and I do not believe that in any case I behaved as alleged.
"A majority of the allegations relate to private one-to-one meetings, and where witnesses are involved the witnesses were of very different minds. Wrongly, in my opinion, my witnesses were disregarded and other witnesses have been believed."
Of one of the more extreme accusations - that he threw a mobile phone at a member of staff - Mr Bercow said: "I've never thrown a phone at anybody and I most certainly didn't do so. And what's more, don't take it from me - your listeners should take it from the witnesses who were named by the complainant as being present, and who don't support the allegation."
Admitting that he felt upset by the report, Mr Bercow said: "Nobody wants to be accused of bullying people. I'm the parent of three children who I want to go into the workplace and to work in an atmosphere free of intimidation, threats or insecurity - I don't want them to feel at risk in any way. and I had fantastic relations with the vast majority of people with whom I worked. which is why very large numbers of those people turned up in my final weeks to watch me at PMQs, to attend my leaving party and with many of them I've engaged closely ever since.
"So of course it's upsetting, but I'm not going allow that fact to obscure the truth or to prevent me telling it."