Diane Abbott fiercely defended her tweet regarding David Leakey’s claim that he was bullied by Mr Bercow. In a post on social media, which has since been deleted, Ms Abbott said regarding the bullying allegations: “Allegations come from the 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.”
Sky News’s Dermot Murnaghan quizzed the Labour Shadow Home Secretary on her tweet.
He said: “On the whole John Bercow thing, you mentioned David Leakey could not be bullied because he had been in the army or in the military.
“Do you regret that now and do you accept that anyone can be bullied?”
Ms Abbott replied: “I didn’t say he couldn’t be bullied and the Labour Party takes it extremely seriously and I know it is surprising that he didn’t raise these things when he was working for John Bercow but I certainly didn’t say that he couldn’t be bullied.”
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Diane Abbott fiercely defended her tweet
Sky News’s Dermot Murnaghan quizzed the Labour Shadow Home Secretary on the tweet
Mr Murnaghan said: “But you deleted the tweet pretty quickly.
“Do you accept that even somebody in the military can be bullied?”
The Labour MP responded: “Anybody can be bullied but I certainly did not say that he could not be bullied because he had been in the military.”
Ms Abbott’s tweet received an immediate backlash on Twitter.
Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA union tweeted: “Indeed Diane – faced with an abusive boss, we often advise members to deploy military self-defence tactics. What a ridiculous comment from an experienced MP, demonstrating blind political partisanship and a complete failure to understand how power is abused in the workplace.”
Isabel Hardman, presenter of Radio 4’s Week in Westminster wrote: “This is staggeringly disrespectful to all victims of abuse and coercion.
“If Diane genuinely thinks that to be a victim of bullying or abuse you have to be obviously a bit weak, then she needs to start again with understanding these things.”
The BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg labelled the Shadow Home Secretary’s response to the allegations as “beyond the pale”.
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Laura Kuenssberg attacked Labour’s Diane Abbott over her defence of John Bercow
Ms Kuenssberg told BBC Two’s Politics Live: “There was an immediate reaction to that online and I understand she has now deleted this tweet.
“But it was up there long enough for plenty of people to see it and up there long enough for plenty of people to criticise it in the strongest terms.
“Because of course what most people would think if someone is making allegations of bullying, whoever they are, whatever their background is, they have to be taken seriously.
“Interestingly Dan Jarvis, who is a Labour MP and former member of the military, has also got into this debate and said someone’s background military or other is absolutely irrelevant.
“The boss of the civil service union was also out there very quickly suggesting that the idea that just because they are a tough person and have been in the army their allegations shouldn’t be taken seriously is really beyond the pale.”