John Bercow has been told to his face to quit as Speaker of the Commons after a report found damning evidence of bullying in parliament.
An investigation by High Court judge Dame Laura Cox QC that found a culture of “deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence” had allowed the mistreatment of staff in the House of Commons to thrive.
Bercow has also faced claims – which he denies – that he bullied two former officials.
Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, Maria Miller, the Conservative chair of the women and equalities committee, said: “The report is clear that there needs to be a complete change in leadership at the most senior level, including you Mr Speaker.”
Bercow listened to Miller call for him to quit from just a few metres away in the Speaker’s Chair.
Kevin Barron, the outgoing Labour chairman of the Commons Committee on Standards, has also demanded Bercow resign, as have other Tory and Labour MPs.
A spokesman for Theresa May said it was “up to the House leadership to respond fully and properly” to the Cox report.
But Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, rejected suggestions that Bercow should not be toppled because he was needed to ensure parliament had a proper say in the Brexit process.
She told the Commons the Deputy Speakers were “perfectly good at taking the chair” and “also stand up for backbenchers and what’s right for our country”.
Leadsom added it was wrong to think “the future of this great nation relies on one individual person”.
Under pressure to step down, Bercow told MPs today that he wanted complaints about bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct in the Commons to be investigated by an independent, external body.
Bercow has also received the support of other parliamentarians – including Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry and former minister Ben Bradshaw.
Both said Speaker should not be forced out as he was needed to defend the rights of parliament when it came to agreeing to the Brexit deal.
“I think this is absolutely not the time to be changing Speaker. We don’t know, for example, with regard to Brexit, as to what is going to happen,” Thornberry told Sky News.
“We do need to have all hands to the deck at the moment. I don’t work with him on a day-to-day basis, but people who I know and respect do, and they say that he is a fine Speaker.”
Her intervention angered Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA union, which represents civil servants.
He tweeted: “Completely disingenuous from Emily Thornberry. Just last month, you were speaking at the TUC 150th Anniversary dinner about workers’ rights. Now you’re happy to ignore Dame Laura Cox’s urgent calls and put party politics before people. Which side are you on?”
And writing for HuffPost UK, Amy Leversidge, the assistant general secretary of the FDA, said MPs “should hang their heads in shame”.
“Today MPs have shown, in spectacular fashion, how prepared they are to put party politics above action on this devastating inquiry into their own workplace,” she said.