John Bercow will not be investigated over "stupid woman" row
John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, will not be investigated by the 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, had called for the standards commissioner to secure video and audio footage of the alleged incident in the Commons chamber last month before it was destroyed.
However, Kathryn Stone, the commissioner, is prevented from investigating the alleged conduct because under parliamentary rules it is the Speaker’s responsibility to rule on behaviour in the chamber.
Bercow has sought to defuse the row 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 offered no apology and insisted he would “continue to speak out firmly” for the interests of the Commons.
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 was unacceptable.
The incident came on the day an inquiry into allegations Bercow bullied two former private secretaries, Angus Sinclair and Kate Emms, was blocked by MPs.
The Commons standards committee voted three to two against allowing parliament’s watchdog to investigate the allegations, which Bercow has consistently denied.
An allegation of misconduct in public office against the Speaker is being assessed by the Metropolitan police.
In a statement, Duddridge said: “It is ludicrous that bullying allegations cannot be investigated because they are seven years old, because a non-disclousure agreement was signed, because it was in the chamber, because it was a current member of staff or because the person bullied is so traumatised. Enough is enough.”