Boston Globe Flatters John Bercow, Skips Misconduct

September 19, 2019

It’s not just that the headline on this piece in yesterday’s Boston Globe about outgoing Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow is so thoroughly tin-eared and obtuse.

UK House Speaker takes the high road

Declines to criticize Johnson or Trump

John Bercow, the stentorian speaker of the British House of Commons, wouldn’t take the bait. In an interview Tuesday, Bercow wouldn’t criticize fiery Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whom last week he compared to a bank robber.

The speaker wouldn’t comment on whether he opposes a “no-deal” Brexit, which Johnson has said he is determined to implement Oct. 31, even though the House of Commons last week demanded an extension if no exit agreement is reached with the European Union . . .

“The role of a parliamentary democracy should be preserved, nurtured, and celebrated,” Bercow said. “If we degrade Parliament, we do so at our peril.”

 

The bigger problem is that the piece lets Bercow get away with that last sentence despite the inconvenient fact that his departure from Parliament is entirely due to his own degrading and bullying of the people around him in that same body.

From Kate Maltby’s New York Review of Books piece last week: “The Speaker’s resignation follows a series of independent reports into a culture of bullying and sexual harassment in the House of Commons—an employment culture that it was his job to regulate. To be clear, there are no allegations of sexual harassment against Bercow personally; there are serious allegations (which he denies) of bullying.”

Representative sample:

[T]he flagship BBC news show Newsnight broadcast in May last year allegations that the Speaker was an egregious workplace bully. Among other claims, the BBC reported that Bercow’s private secretary, Kate Emms, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after nine months of working for him. (In a petty twist, Emms was removed from the design of Bercow’s official portrait after complaining.)

 

Not a whiff of any of that in the Globe piece.

(To be fair graf goes here)

To be fair, Globe reporter Brian MacQuarrie can’t be held responsible for the headlines that editors attach to his pieces. But somebody at the Globe should be informed enough to know that John Bercow is not just “stentorian” and “flamboyant” and “a champion of the rank and file.”

Especially when Bercow excoriates “keyboard warriors who think they have a right to berate, harangue, intimidate, or threaten anyone who dares to take a view that differs from their own,” as he did in the Globe piece.

That’s a pretty good description of Bercow himself, according to independent investigators for the House of Commons.

One last note: The headline on Maltby’s NYRB piece is “What the Speaker Bercow Stories Failed to Say.”

Now add the Boston Globe to that roll call.