FDA General Secretary Dave Penman has branded comments made by Diane Abbott as “ridiculous”, after she suggested is was “unlikely” that former Black Rod David Leakey could have faced bullying due to his military background.
Leakey has alleged that former Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow “brutalised” staff and publicly criticised his nomination for a peerage. Bercow has denied all allegations.
In response to Leakey’s claims, The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington tweeted: "Allegations come from former parliamentary official David Leakey. He had been a Lieutenant General who served in Germany, Northern Ireland and Bosnia. But claims he was bullied (i.e. intimidated and coerced) by John Bercow. Unlikely.”
Penman condemned her rhetoric, claiming it demonstrated “blind political partisanship and a complete failure to understand how power is abused in the workplace” and telling Sky News that some in Parliament “are more interested in protecting their political allies than they are about dealing with systematic bullying and harassment of Parliamentary staff”.
In a column for the Times Red Box, the FDA General Secretary said that Diane Abbott’s comments “reinforce old stereotypes about who can and cannot be subject to bullying and harassment” which “will rightly be met with outrage” from those who have experience abusive behaviour in the workplace.
He wrote: “Inquiry after inquiry has exposed abusive behaviour being tolerated or ignored to further political ends. If someone was politically useful then their bullying — and in some cases sexual harassment — was ignored and therefore ultimately condoned.
“Abbott’s comments and the circus that surrounds Bercow demonstrate that, despite all of the progress made over the past two years, blind political loyalty and partisan objectives still, for some, remain the priority.”
Penman followed this with an in-studio appearance on BBC Newsnight, in which stressed the need for a long-awaited independent process to investigate bullying and harassment in Parliament.
He told the BBC’s Katie Razzall: “They still haven’t got an independent process. The House Commission are meeting next week, 15 months after they first took a decision to introduce an independent process – it still hasn’t been introduced.”
Penman’s comments were also covered by Politics Home, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Independent, the Guardian and the Metro as well as a live appearance on LBC with Shelagh Fogarty.