John Bercow reported to Commons watchdog over "stupid woman" claims
John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has been reported to its standards watchdog over allegations that he described the cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom as a “stupid woman”.
The Conservative MP James Duddridge, a long-standing critic of Bercow, called for the standards commissioner to secure video and audio footage of the alleged incident in the Commons chamber last week before it was destroyed.
Bercow sought to defuse the row on Monday by admitting he muttered the word “stupid” during a disagreement with the leader of the house about the timetabling of legislation, but denied insulting her personally.
He was accused of having said in an aside that Leadsom was a “stupid woman”, and swearing before describing her as “useless”, prompting Downing Street to say such language would be unacceptable.
In his complaint letter on Tuesday, Duddridge wrote: “I am writing in order to make a formal complaint concerning the behaviour of the Speaker, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP, on Wednesday 16th May 2018, and his comments concerning the Leader of the House, the Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP.
“He is alleged to have called her a “f****** stupid woman” and a “liar”. He has not denied these allegations. I would ask that primary video and audio footage is examined. I would also ask that this footage is secured immediately as it may be routinely destroyed.”
The demand for a fresh investigation into the latest allegations will increase pressure on the Speaker, who has previously faced calls to resign over allegations he bullied staff who worked for him.
He has denied the historic claims and the Commons’ standards committee announced last week that the watchdog would not investigate them further.
Duddridge, one of a large band of Conservative critics of the Speaker, suggested he should stand down in June, after originally pledging to serve nine years in the role. However, Bercow was re-elected uncontested after the 2015 and 2017 general elections, suggesting that the pledge had expired.
In his letter, seen by the Guardian, Duddridge wrote: “I would like to also request a call for evidence in relation to intimidating behaviour which I and other members have witnessed repeatedly over the years.
“We cannot let the current situation of intimidation and bullying from such a senior figure [to] whom we should look to set an example and act as arbitrator. The perpetrator cannot be allowed to have so much power over the House, its members and staff who work in the House of Commons.
“It is essential that the Speaker steps aside from chairing and participating on all matters related to bullying.”
Bercow told MPs on Monday he had been frustrated with the timetabling of legislation when he uttered the word “stupid”. He added: “It was in that context, and that context alone, that, having expressed my displeasure about the matter quite forcefully from the chair, I used the word ‘stupid’ in a muttered aside.
“That adjective simply summed up how I felt about the way that that day’s business had been conducted.”
It is understood that Leadsom did not complain to the parliamentary standards commissioner about the alleged comments because she did not want to jeopardise her independent complaints and grievance policy.
The final proposals, which are due out before the summer recess in July, have to be signed off by the House of Commons commission, which is chaired by Bercow.
The Speaker’s spokeswoman said he would not be commenting beyond what he had said in the Commons on Monday. The standards commissioner, Kathryn Stone, could not be contacted for comment.