His was arguably the worst Speakership in history
The verdict is in. John Bercow, the former Speaker of the House of Commons, has been found guilty by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards on 21 out of 35 counts of bullying.
For those interested, the full report has been released online. It makes in places for astonishing reading: he repeatedly denies imitating people in order to belittle them, but then the author notes that:
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It also brands him a “serial bully” and “serial liar”.
Hopefully this will be the last we hear of Mr Bercow. Given that Labour has suspended his membership, and he has received a lifetime ban from Parliament, it seems unlikely anyone is now going to give him the peerage he craves.
The report is also a grim but somehow fitting end to what was probably the most abysmal speakership in the history of Parliament. For the arrogance it reveals mirrors perfectly Bercow’s attitude towards the traditions of the House of Commons and the proper role of the Speaker.
Everyone remembers the dramatic closing chapter, where he unilaterally rewrote the rules, against the advice of the clerks, to help Opposition MPs wrest control of the legislative agenda from the Government. But this was merely the culmination of a decade-long process.
Bercow was, after all, only a moderniser when it suited him. He made a great show of dispensing with the traditional regalia of the Speaker on the grounds that it “wasn’t really him”, yet still expected MPs to spring from his path as he processed through the Palace of Westminster. He enjoyed the free tickets and the grace-and-favour home. And all the while, it turns out, he was treating people around him abominably.
Yet at a time when there was no majority and the political stakes couldn’t be higher, it suited a lot of MPs to look the other way. Just as it suited Labour MPs to elect a man they knew would be a thorn in the side of David Cameron when they chose him back in 2009.
In the end, his disdain for tradition came back to bite him. As he noted in an interview with A UK in a Changing Europe:
Bercow wanted everything to be about him; as a result, much of his work has not outlived his tenure as Speaker. It will likely not be much comfort to his victims, from whose complaints he was too long shielded, but he ends his political career not just a bully, but a failure.