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John Bercow: who is former House of Commons speaker, and why has he been banned from parliament?

Former Commons speaker John Bercow has been handed a lifetime ban after an inquiry concluded he was a “serial bully”

John Bercow has been banned for life from holding a House of Commons parliamentary pass after an Independent Expert Panel (IEP) upheld 21 allegations against him.

He becomes the second former MP to have the pass revoked for life after the ex-Labour MP Keith Vaz faced a similar sanction in 2019.

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Mr Bercow’s conduct was “so serious that he should never be allowed a pass to the Parliamentary estate; and that if he were still a MP it would have recommended expelling him from the House”, the report said.

Here’s everything you need to know from who John Bercow is and why he has been banned from parliament.

Who is John Bercow?

Bercow was elected the 157th Speaker of the House of Commons in 2009 and held the post until 2019.

Although he was once a Conservative MP, Bercow was elected to this role mainly through the votes of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs.

He championed the voices of backbench MPs during his time as Speaker and n 201 there was an attempt by the then Leader of the House, William Hague, to remove Bercow as Speaker.

He stepped down in 2019 and left the Commons. After leaving Parliament, Mr Bercow was nominated for a peerage by the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2020, but it was ultimately blocked due to the investigation into bullying allegations.

In May 2021, John Bercow told ITV’s ‘Good Morning Britain’ that he no longer considered himself a Conservative, saying, “I have gone from being a rabid rightist to being a soft leftist.”

By mid June 2021 he announced that he had now joined the Labour Party.

Bercow’s wife, Sally Bercow, is herself a long standing Labour Party member, and once stood for the party for Westminster Council.

Since January 2020, Mr Bercow has been a part-time Professor of politics at Royal Holloway University.

Why has he been banned from parliament?

The parliamentary commissioner for standards, Kathryn Stone, upheld 21 allegations from three former parliamentary staff relating to events between 2009 and 2014, including verbal abuse, displays of anger and “undermining behaviour” against his secretary Angus Sinclair.

The panel rejected appeals by Mr Bercow over bullying against three people - Lord Lisvane, the former Commons clerk, Angus Sinclair and Kate Emms - and accused him of an "abuse of power".

Ms Kate Emms, a current member of the House staff, claimed Mr Bercow mimicked her, created an “intimidating and hostile environment”, and was responsible for “intimidating, insulting behaviour involving an abuse of power” towards her.

The IEP sub-panel chaired by Sir Stephen Irwin said: “The findings of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, which we have upheld, show that the respondent has been a serial bully.

“Like many bullies, he had those whom he favoured and those whom he made victims. His evidence in the investigations, the findings of the Commissioner, and his submissions to us, show also that the respondent has been a serial liar.”

It added: “His behaviour fell very far below that which the public has a right to expect from any Member of Parliament.

“The ICGS Bullying and Harassment Policy was breached repeatedly and extensively by the most senior Member of the House of Commons.

The report said: “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.”

The Independent Expert Panel concluded that the bullying and harassment policy "was breached repeatedly and extensively by the most senior member of the House of Commons".

What is the Independent Expert Panel?

The Panel is entirely independent and determines appeals and sanctions in cases where complaints have been brought against MPs of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct.

MPs agreed to establish the Panel on 23 June 2020 - no MPs take part in its decisions.

What have the complainants said?

In a statement issued on Tuesday 8 March, Ms Emms said she was "supremely glad to be vindicated by the report".

She said: "The impacts of the one and only genuinely horrible, undermining and consistently upsetting period of my career has spread into all areas of my life.

"Stress, anxiety and loss of confidence sent me home on sick leave and affected how I saw myself and how I felt I was seen by family, friends and colleagues."

What has Mr Bercow said?

Mr Bercow previously denounced the investigation as “materially flawed” and hit out at the “amateurish and unjust process”.

In a statement today (Wednesday 9 March) he said: “Parliament is supposed to be the highest court in the land.

“This inquiry, which lasted a ghastly 22 months at great cost to the taxpayer, has failed dismally.”

He added: “At the end of, the panel has simply said that I should be denied a parliamentary pass which I have never applied for and do not want. That is the absurdity of its position.

“Don’t fall for the establishment spin that I have been banned for life. I can still attend debates with the help of a friendly pass-holder or go as a member of the public.”

The former Commons speaker said: “All I can say is that the case against me would have been thrown out by any court in the land since it is based on the flimsiest of evidence, rooted in hearsay and baseless rumour, and advanced by old school dogmatists once intent on resisting change at all costs and now settling some ancient scores with me.

“Add to that a dash of personal spite and you have some idea of the vengeful vendetta mounted against me. It is a travesty of justice and brings shame on the House of Commons.”

How has the government responded?

Downing Street said that it hopes the findings will encourage other Westminster staff who suffer harassment to come forward.

A No 10 spokesman said: “The prime minister has spoken before about the fact that there is no place for bullying or harassment in Parliament, and MPs should always be held to the highest standards.

“We hope that today’s decision gives all those in Westminster the confidence to come forward and report their cases, and that they will be fairly heard.”

What else has been said about Mr Bercow?

Former Commons leader and Conservative MP Dame Andrea Leadsom said Mr Bercow should be expelled from the Labour Party after he was found guilty of bullying allegations.

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union which represents senior civil servants, said bullying had “flourished unchallenged” under John Bercow.

He said: “No remorse, no contrition and willing to sacrifice the first independent process that investigates complaints, simply to save his own reputation.”

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