FIVE months have now passed since The Yorkshire Post became the first newspaper in the country to call for the resignation of John Bercow, the Speaker of the Commons, after a number of misgivings about his behaviour culminated with his use of belittling language against Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom.
Conduct that would have been unacceptable in any contemporary workplace, Dame Laura Cox’s inquiry into the mistreatment and bullying of some Commons staff further vindicates this publication’s stance after she concluded that a culture of “deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence” was driven from the top.
And the fact that resignation calls are now endorsed by the Rother Valley MP, Sir Kevin Barron, and Maria Miller, a former Cabinet minister, speak volumes, due to their status. Until this week, Sir Kevin headed the Commons Standards Committee while Ms Miller chairs the Women and Equalities Committee.
Though she did not go this far with her comments, the aforementioned Ms Leadsom – the Commons leader – did concede that Dame Laura’s findings were “undeniably worrying”, reflected “poorly” on Westminster’s ability to tackle bullying and reform was urgent. Yet how can this happen when Mr Bercow, who is facing outstanding allegations about his own conduct, still presided over exchanges arising from an urgent question tabled by Bassetlaw MP John Mann? With some MPs saying “a fish rots from the head”, the legitimacy of the Commons will be tarnished if Parliament remains compromised like this.
Reform begins by replacing a discredited Speaker now – and not waiting for a time of his own choosing. And, to those MPs who defend Mr Bercow by saying it’s more important that he oversees Brexit proceedings, how do they justify this to those Commons employees who have not been treated with respect? They should be the priority.