Diane Abbott fascinates me. Always has. She's clearly a clever woman, but boy does she say - and tweet - some bloody stupid things. Today she was at it again. However, apparently, according to Twitter, we are not allowed to comment on it or criticise her because it's unkind and she's, well, Diane. I'm afraid I'm not playing. I treat her in exactly the same way as I would treat any other politician, and if any other politician had said this, I'd be having a go at them too. Some believe that we should give her a free pass because of the colour of her skin. No. That's deeply racist. I don't see a politician's skin colour, but I do hear their occasional idiocies.
This morning, Diane tweeted this little gem, in reaction to the accusations of bullying against John Bercow by former Black Rod, Sir David Leakey...
Unlikely, she says.
If Leakey's accusations weren't corroborated by others, she might - just might - have had a point. But there is a litany of allegations against the former Speaker. Lord Lisvane, the former Clerk of the House of Commons, plus several female Clerks have made similar accusations of bullying.
The fact that she thinks a former military officer is unlikely to be bullied is very revealing, though, and reveals a very strange mindset. It's the same mindset that prevents some female politicians from believing that any man can be a victim of domestic violence. It's the same mindset that appears to believe that is a woman dresses in a particular way she's asking for it. Can a female prison officer not be bullied even though, given her job, she's probably as hard as nails?
Erm, soldiers don’t get a special blanket protecting them from feeling the impact of bullying and harassment, Diane.— James Wharton (@jameswharton) February 5, 2020
And yet Diane Abbott will get a free pass on this. If it was a Tory minister saying something similar, there would be hell to pay.
In the end, Diane Abbott deleted the tweet following a Twitter storm, but offered no explanation, let alone an apology.
All this obscures the main point. John Bercow is facing very serious allegations of bullying. His defence against Sir David Leakey is that Leakey never worked for him so there is no case to answer. It's a pretty weak defence, given Leakey's accounts of their various encounters.
Having a distinguished service record does not preclude you from being a victim of workplace bullying.— Dan Jarvis (@DanJarvisMP) February 5, 2020
All of us in the labour/trade union movement have a responsibility to create a climate where people can voice their concerns & not have their experiences dismissed out of hand. https://t.co/5msivQpnMk
What is particularly appalling is the mindset among many parliamentarians on the left, which appears to think that he should be given a free pass - and a peerage to boot - just because of his former eminent position, and because he more often than not sided with them as Speaker.
No one else should be considered for a peerage with this kind of allegation hanging over them, and nor should John Bercow. If he is cleared, then that's another matter. But until he is, it would be quite wrong for him to be put in the House of Lords.
And as for Diane Abbott, like the rest of us, maybe she should count to ten before tweeting such utter bollocks.