John bercow

My lack of schadenfreude worries me

Something has been bothering me of late, and that is my total lack of schadenfreude. The malicious pleasure at someone’s misfortune never counted a lot, but it’s now totally absent, and it worries me. Take, for example, the case of John Bercow, the preening popinjay show-off whose physical stature matches the respect he earned as Speaker. I can’t think of anyone I found more irritating, unfair and unfit for high office, yet now that he has been branded a liar, a bully and someone unwelcome even at Annabel’s, I feel no particular joy. His pompous self-regard brought about his comeuppance, but I have been denied the pleasure that Gore Vidal

John Bercow’s unlikely rehabilitation

It’s been a tough week for poor John Bercow. The release of the report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards into his Speakership on Tuesday saw 21 counts of bullying being upheld against him. Since then there have been calls for universities to strip him of his academic posts, while Commons bosses have delivered the ultimate insult: removing his name from the parliamentary gym spin room. Talk about purging the last remnants of a hated former regime. And Steerpike can reveal that Bercow has also now quit as a trustee of Holland Park school, known as ‘the socialist Eton’. His term was due to end in November 2024. A spokesperson for the school told

Universities stand by Bercow

Normally when a public figure is ‘cancelled’ there is an ungainly rush by institutions to distance themselves from the individual in question. Fortunately for John Bercow, his impact on public life was so limited that there are few bodies left to cut him off. Certain actions though must sting the former Speaker’s pride: his suspension from the Labour party for instance and the decision of the parliamentary gym to rename the spin room named after him.  Following Tuesday’s publication of the report into bullying claims against him, Bercow is now without an office, without a seat, without a party and without a legacy. He can still cash in on Cameo – recording videos for businesses

Portrait of the week: Zelensky channels Churchill, Russia blocks BBC and Bercow banned from parliament

Home President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed a packed House of Commons by video, echoing Winston Churchill by declaring that Ukrainians would fight in the fields and in the streets. He said: ‘Please make sure that our Ukrainian skies are safe.’ Wearing a blue and yellow tie, the Speaker, clearly moved, thanked him. Earlier, Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, announced a ban on Russian oil imports in the coming months, but no ban on gas imports. He proposed a six-point plan that included an international humanitarian coalition and maximising economic pressure on Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia. Mr Johnson also said the government would publish a strategy for producing more

Eight embarrassed Bercow backers

The verdict is in and it’s not good for John Bercow. Yesterday finally saw the publication of the independent expert panel report into his behaviour as Commons Speaker, with 21 separate allegations of bullying being upheld against the former Buckingham MP. The conclusions of the report were damning: Bercow was judged to be a ‘serial bully’ and a ‘liar’ who ‘repeatedly and extensively’ bullied staff and exhibited ‘behaviour which had no place in any workplace.’ It will be seen as vindication for the members of staff who spoke out against Bercow for years before yesterday’s publication. It’s also damning of those who continued to prop up and cheer on the former Speaker in

The six most damning revelations from the Bercow report

At long last, the bullying report into John Bercow is out. After two years of claims and counter-claims, an independent panel has delivered its findings after Bercow appealed against the initial report by Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. Mr S has been slowly making his way through the brutal 89-page review alongside Bercow’s 87-page defence. The conclusions themselves are conclusively damning, with the former Buckingham MP being described as a ‘serial bully’ and ‘serial liar’ who ‘repeatedly and extensively’ breached ethics rules. But below are some of the other lowlights from the probe, which looks set to kibosh any remaining hopes Bercow had of getting a peerage… The range of accusations The


Will Keir Starmer purge John Bercow?

Well that’s that then. This morning’s report by the Independent Expert Panel into John Bercow’s behaviour makes for damning reading for the former Commons Speaker. It finds him guilty of bullying House of Commons staff and has banned him for life from holding a parliamentary pass for former members. The move effectively kills his chances of getting a peerage. Poor Sally. The report on Bercow concluded he was a ‘serial bully’ who ‘repeatedly and extensively’ bullied staff. In all 21 separate allegations were proved and have been upheld. It finds that: This was behaviour which had no place in any workplace. Members of staff… should not be expected to have to

Revealed: the hidden costs of John Bercow

John Bercow may be gone but his legacy still lives on. The former Speaker of the House of Commons quit the role back in November 2019 but new costs from his tenure at the helm are still being uncovered more than two years on. Steerpike has done some digging and it seems the scandal-hit Speaker felt the need to call in the services of an expert PR adviser, despite him having access to both his own press secretary and the Commons media team. A Freedom of Information request has found that Bercow spent between £65,000 to £70,000 on the services of former journalist Tim Hames between 2015 and 2019. Who he,

Lindsay Hoyle is turning into John Bercow

Sir Keir Starmer has a weakness, and the Tories have spotted it. His weakness is Sir Lindsay Hoyle. The Speaker likes to interrupt PMQs when noise in the chamber exceeds a threshold known only to him. During Sir Keir’s cross-examination of Boris today, he broke in three times to deliver pompous mini-sermons that might have been scripted by John Bercow. ‘Our constituents are very interested to hear this,’ said Hoyle, having told Sir Keir to sit down. The rowdies were ordered to ‘please leave quietly’. No one left. That should have told him that a game was afoot. He himself pointed out that the shouts and jibes originate from the

The Steerpike Awards of 2021

Well 2021 is at an end and what a hell of a year it’s been. There were laughs, tears, shock, disgust and despair – and that was just the reaction to footage of Matt Hancock’s video nasty. The past twelve months have seen various ups and downs in Britain and abroad, ranging from the highlights of the vaccine rollout and England’s Euro run to low points like the Capitol coup, the Afghanistan debacle and various pandemic pitfalls. And Mr S has been there throughout it all to chart the gossip, drama, high politics and low shenanigans. Tony Benn once sniffed that it was ‘issues, not personalities’ that mattered; Steerpike holds that the inverse is true when

John Bercow prepares to make his Labour debut

Labour conference begins this Saturday and already expectations are running high. Ahead of his first in-person appearance as leader, Keir Starmer has dropped the season’s hottest release – an 11,500 word personal essay on his vision for Britain. There’s talk of rule changes, factional disputes and all kinds of rows over obscure procedure on the conference floor while ex-Unite general secretary Len McCluskey aims to spoil Keir’s party by having his own rival book launch on Saturday. And now, as if things could not get much worse, John Bercow is set to make his Labour debut down in Brighton. The former Commons Speaker will be interviewed on Monday by Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland in an

Calculating the cost of Bercow

After a year out of the headlines, John Bercow is back. The former Commons Speaker appeared on the Observer front page in June to announce his membership of the Labour party, eighteen months after retiring from Parliament.  The onetime Tory right winger is still smarting over the government’s refusal to award him a peerage and thus a seat for life in the Lords to happily chunter away. There is now speculation as to whether Bercow’s revised goal is a return to the Commons under Labour colours – as if his former colleagues there had not suffered enough. One story Bercow will have been less pleased about was the news last month that he has

Would you pay £80 for a video from John Bercow?

There is much to be said for meritocracy, and Adrian Wooldridge, in his new book, The Aristocracy of Talent, says it very well. He is right: a society organised on anti-meritocratic principles will decay, making life worse for all, not just for the naturally successful. And yet I feel that meritocracy is inadequate. Most of us, sensing our lack of merit, feel left out. It takes small account of things that matter in real life — love of family and friends, relationships across generations, enduring ill health and bereavement, beauty, landscapes, animals, flowers, kindness, joy, pleasing idleness, traditions, prayer, being silly, jokes, song, meals, bed. Meritocracy rightly seeks results. But

Will Lindsay get his chariot back?

As Speaker, John Bercow could never be accused of underselling his position. During his tenure the diminutive parliamentarian attracted criticism for everything from his £37,000 portrait and coat of arms to his £45,000 apartment refurbishment to a £1,000 taxi journey. But one free ride Bercow did decline was the official Speaker’s State Coach, a gilded 17th century carriage traditionally used for coronations. The oldest of the three great State coaches – alongside equivalent vehicles for the monarch and Lord Mayor of London – Bercow had it loaned out in 2011 to the National Trust’s Arlington Court Carriage Museum in Devon, saying: ‘Now it no longer has any practical role in

Watch: Hoyle hits out at John Bercow’s ‘retrograde’ Trump ban

Since becoming the new Speaker of the Commons, the softly-spoken Lancastrian Lindsay Hoyle has sought to distance himself from the tenure of John Bercow. While the latter spent his days constructing long monologues and pontificating from the Speaker’s chair, Hoyle has instead focused on limiting his own contributions in the Chamber and attempting to be an impartial arbiter of Commons debates. Despite this change in approach (and the fact that he ran for Speaker as the anti-Bercow candidate) Hoyle has generally avoided criticising his predecessor directly. Mr S wonders though if that now might be about to change. This week, Hoyle was interviewed by chief executive of the rugby league

Leadsom delivers a parting shot at Bercow

Andrea Leadsom has just given a rather long and very comprehensive personal statement in the Commons following her sacking in last month’s reshuffle. She took no parting shots at Boris Johnson at all, preferring instead to focus any anger on former Speaker John Bercow, with whom she had a very long-running feud. Why did she bother giving a personal statement at all if it was just to look back on the past few years at work? Someone with very little knowledge of what has happened in Westminster in the past few years might have been forgiven for thinking that Bercow was the one responsible for her leaving government, rather than

Sunday shows round-up: Parliament better without Bercow, says minister

Dawn Butler: ‘I’m the most experienced candidate’… Sophy Ridge started her show by speaking to Dawn Butler, one of Labour’s five deputy leadership contenders. Butler, who was first elected in 2005, argued her case for being chosen: “I am the most experienced candidate.”@DawnButlerBrent MP explains her strategy to become deputy Labour leader, claiming that she is the “unity candidate”.#Ridge DB: I am the most experienced candidate. I’ve served under two Labour Prime Ministers and in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, and I am the unity candidate. I’ve got the temperament to work with everybody, and I’ve worked with everybody – all the MPs in Parliament. …Jeremy Corbyn won’t be an issue


Dawn Butler: Tories ‘bullying’ Bercow by refusing him a peerage

How would you define bullying? Perhaps it involves aggression or intimidation? Or perhaps bullying might include name-calling or the use derogatory language? But according to Labour’s would-be deputy Dawn Butler, bullying goes quite a bit further than that. During an interview with Sky’s Sophy Ridge this morning, Butler told the presenter that she thought the Tories were ‘bullying’ John Bercow by denying him a seat in the House of Lords. The former Speaker is himself currently subject to multiple allegations of workplace bullying, allegations that he denies. Butler told the show: ‘It is the norm that the Speaker of the House is always given a peerage, so I think the

Lindsay Hoyle aims to curb the excesses of the Bercow era

Lindsay Hoyle is a very different Speaker to John Bercow. He talks less, chairs in a kindly manner, and keeps the Commons running to time. Today he announced a new procedure designed to prevent a repeat of the excesses of the Bercow era. In a brief statement after PMQs, he said that from now on if the Clerk of the House disagreed with the Speaker’s decision on procedural grounds, the Clerk would have the ability to ask for a written direction equivalent to what civil servants can request from ministers who want to proceed with a course of action despite advice to the contrary from ministers. The Clerk’s objections would

Watch: John Bercow’s ‘insurgent of the year’ acceptance speech

Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that John Bercow had an outsized political impact in 2019. The former Speaker was instrumental in the battles to block Brexit through legislation and parliamentary procedure, and his decision to delay his departure probably changed the course of British history. So it was perhaps unsurprising that Bercow was The Spectator’s insurgent of the year at last night’s parliamentarian awards. Unfortunately, he was not able to attend the event in person, but did provide this video message, which put to bed the rumours once and for all, that he was a Speaker who was obsessed with self-promotion and only concerned about flogging his