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Mile End Institute

Parliament must act speedily to contain sexual harassment scandal, says John Bercow

The sexual harassment scandal in British politics has the potential to be as serious as the 2009 expenses scandal, said the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow.


Rt Hon John Bercow MP and Professor Philip Cowley at the Mile End Institute

He said that he is hopeful that it can be contained by acting speedily - to ensure that people who are suspected of wrong-doing are investigated, and to ensure that an independent complaints mechanism is established.

Mr Bercow said that where an MP is associated with wrongdoing, they should be treated as "innocent until proven guilty", and that MPs accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour should be given help, understanding, and support.

“For example it may be, I am not referring to any particular case, it may be that someone who is suspected of committing, or has committed an offence, or even something that is not an offence or is widely regarded as abuse - such a person might have problems in his or her life and need support in tackling that, or living with it, or managing it. I think that is part of our responsibility," said Mr Bercow.


He said  he remains unrepentant about speaking out against a proposed address to the Houses of Parliament by President Donald Trump.

"Yes, I was speaking my own view, but I had a sense I was speaking for the majority of the House... there are two good reasons why Trump should not be invited to Parliament. The first is that there is huge controversy attached [to his Presidency]. The second is that it is incredibly early in his Presidency. The idea that the prize should be offered to President Trump within weeks struck me as absolutely extraordinary. Addressing both Houses of Parliament is not an automatic right, it is an earned honour. My view is that he has not earned that honour," said Mr Bercow.

He spoke of his regret at his involvement, much earlier in his career, in the Monday Club - a right-wing pressure group within the Conservative Party.

"As a young man, I was rather ideological - I became attracted to an ideological brand of conservative politics," he said.

Mr Bercow said that he was also felt drawn to the politics of Enoch Powell, whose ideas he later denounced.

"Enoch Powell seemed to me like an extraordinary intellect, a logician, and a rhetorician. I read his books and speeches, and I was inspired by them. But it was completely wrong-headed and mad to join the Monday club, and I came to bitterly regret it later. My plea in defence is that hopefully the audience here believes in the rehabilitation of offenders act, and I hope 33 years later it's acknowledged and accepted that I'm a very different person today."

Watch Rt Hon John Bercow MP speaking at the Mile End Institute's event.

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