John Bercow says he was subject to antisemitic abuse from Conservatives

Former Commons speaker claims he experienced ‘subtle’ comments on Jewish heritage

Chiara Giordano
Monday 03 February 2020 00:00
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I've never suffered antisemitism from the Labour party - John Bercow

John Bercow has claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse by Conservative Party members.

The former House of Commons speaker said he experienced “subtle” comments about his Jewish heritage while a member of the party.

He told the Sunday Times Magazine he never experienced antisemitism from anyone within the Labour Party throughout his 22 years in parliament.

But, he added: “I did experience antisemitism from members of the Conservative Party.”

“It’s very difficult to put a figure on it. A lot was subtle.

“I remember a member saying, ‘If I had my way, Berkoff, people like you wouldn’t be allowed in this place.’

“And I said, ‘Sorry, when you say people like me, do you mean lower-class or Jewish?’ To which he replied, ‘Both.’”

The former MP made similar comments in an interview with GQ magazine in November, when he discussed antisemitism in the Labour Party.

He said he did not believe Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was antisemitic, but added: “I think people should be very careful about casting aspersions on other political parties, there are challenges of racism across society and that does affect political parties.”

Mr Bercow also took aim at former Commons leader Andrea Leadsom in the Sunday Times interview, accusing her of “weaponising the issue” of bullying.

“She rushed to judge me without evidence and I think that is bigoted,” he said.

Last month, Mr Bercow “categorically” denied bullying allegations made against him by his former most senior official.

It came after former Clerk of the Commons Lord Lisvane allegedly handed a dossier of allegations to parliament’s standards watchdog.

The document is said to accuse Mr Bercow, who stepped down on 31 October, of having bullied or humiliated staff, including using inappropriate language.

Mr Bercow, who has repeatedly denied the allegations, publicly raised accusations that ministers were trying to block his elevation to the peerage usually given to former Commons speakers.

He said it had become “increasingly obvious that the government has no intention of honouring the centuries-old convention that a departing speaker is promptly elevated to the House of Lords” following their retirement.

His comments came after it emerged he was on a list of nominees for peerages drawn up by Jeremy Corbyn in a highly unusual move after prime minister Boris Johnson broke convention by failing to put him forward for one.

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