John Bercow has told friends he is to step down as Speaker, according to the BBC. This follows Dame Laura Cox’s report into bullying and sexual harassment of House of Commons staff which says the existing senior leadership team in the Commons – including the Speaker – are probably incapable of changing the current ‘toxic culture’. But this is not Bercow taking responsibility. In fact, he isn’t even announcing anything new. He will retire next June, which has been the plan since May of this year.
James reported this in the Sun at the time, and it seems similar ‘friends of the Speaker’ have been speaking to the BBC again. They’re not particularly helpful friends, though, as they are merely highlighting how much longer Bercow plans to go on for, regardless of his responsibility for the incidents detailed in the Cox report.
The Speaker this afternoon called for an independent body to investigate the allegations, as a number of MPs told him that he should quit. But it was striking how many members spoke up in favour of him. There have long been suspicions among backbenchers that Bercow tends to call certain supportive MPs earlier in debates than their status would demand, though of course Commons status is a somewhat nebulous concept anyway. But it was certainly the case that a number of those speaking – from both sides – were more interested in the political implications for them of changing Speaker rather than the matter of sexual harassment and bullying. Which rather suggests that the culture in the Commons isn’t going to change just yet.