Admiral’s fury at claims speaker John Bercow bullied ‘loyal’ Portsmouth naval officer

John Bercow
John Bercow
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A RETIRED admiral has spoken out in support of a former Royal Navy officer from Portsmouth after allegations emerged he was bullied by Commons speaker John Bercow.

Captain Angus Sinclair said he was tormented by the Tory MP during his stint as his private secretary.

Vice Admiral Bob Cooling

Vice Admiral Bob Cooling

Mr Sinclair, a former submariner who used to be based at navy HQ on Whale Island, told BBC’s Newsnight Mr Bercow undermined him by mimicking him, swearing and shouting, and once even smashed a mobile phone by throwing it on to the desk in front of him.

Mr Bercow denies bullying – with a spokesman saying ‘there was no substance to any of the allegations’.

However, the claims have enraged Vice Admiral Bob Cooling – who knew Mr Sinclair and described him as ‘one of the most loyal people’ he knew.

The ex-commander of the Portsmouth-based aircraft carrier Illustrious said: ‘The idea that Angus was bullied is just unconscionable and outrageous. I knew him well enough to know he would never have deserved that.

‘Angus was among the most respected, considerate and effective officers of my generation whose integrity and judgement was held in the highest regard by both his peers and superiors.

‘Indeed he was hand-picked by some of the most senior admirals to support them in positions of greatest responsibility.

‘Angus absorbed pressure like a sponge and was always on top of his brief.

‘This most dedicated, capable and loyal public servant deserves our full support in exposing such atrocious behaviour.’

Mr Sinclair was private secretary to Mr Bercow’s predecessor, Michael Martin, and retained the position when the new speaker took over in 2009.

He told Newsnight that Mr Bercow mocked him in front of other staff, shouted, swore and attempted to physically intimidate him.

The speaker was prone to ‘over-the-top anger’, he claimed, adding: ‘I’m not sure he was completely in control of it. The arms would wave around.’

And he said: ‘There was one afternoon I was working at my desk and he came in and was absolutely furious about something...

‘There was a lot of bad language and suddenly his mobile phone, which he’d been holding, was flung on the desk in front of me and broke into a lot of bits.’

Following the 2010 general election, he said the speaker told him he was no longer needed.

He said he was given ‘compulsory early retirement’, with an £86,250 pay-off dependent on him signing a non-disclosure agreement barring him from making complaints about his treatment in the House.

Newsnight has previously reported that his successor, Kate Emms, was allegedly bullied by the speaker – a claim Mr Bercow denies.

Mr Sinclair said he felt that if he had not signed the non-disclosure agreement, but had instead put in a complaint, she might not have been put in that position.

‘What I’d done was sign a cover-up and, in a cynical way, I’d been paid to do it, and that’s not a good feeling,’ he said.

Vice Adm Cooling has now demanded a full, independent investigation into the claims, adding: ‘He needs to be brought to account.’

A spokesman for the speaker’s office said: ‘Mr Speaker strenuously denies that there is any substance to any of these allegations.

‘Mr Speaker has a superb team of dedicated, effective and long-serving staff – five of whom have worked for him very happily for a combined total of over 40 years.’