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Abbott criticised over claim ex-military man ‘unlikely’ to have been bullied

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott came under fire after her intervention in the row between ex-speaker John Bercow and former black rod David Leakey.

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Diane Abbott arrives at the Labour Party offices in Westminster, London, ahead of a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee to set the leadership contest timetable.

Diane Abbott arrives at the Labour Party offices in Westminster, London, ahead of a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee to set the leadership contest timetable.

Diane Abbott arrives at the Labour Party offices in Westminster, London, ahead of a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee to set the leadership contest timetable.

Diane Abbott has been branded “ridiculous” by a union boss after she suggested it was unlikely a former general could have been bullied by John Bercow.

The shadow home secretary came to the defence of the former speaker, who has been involved in a public row with Lieutenant General David Leakey, who held the post of black rod in Parliament.

Ms Abbott claimed Lt Gen Leakey’s extensive military service meant it was unlikely he could have been bullied by Mr Bercow.

“He had been a Lieutenant General who served in Germany, Northern Ireland and Bosnia,” she tweeted.

“But claims he was bullied (i.e. intimidated and coerced) by John Bercow. Unlikely.”

After coming under sustained criticism for her remarks, she deleted the post.

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union which represents senior civil servants, mocked Ms Abbott’s comment and said she had a “complete failure to understand” the abuse of power in the workplace.

What a ridiculous comment from an experienced MP, demonstrating blind political partisanship and a complete failure to understand how power is abused in the workplaceDave Penman, FDA

“Indeed Diane – faced with an abusive boss, we often advise members to deploy military self-defence tactics,” he said.

“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.”

Lt Gen Leakey, who served as black rod until 2018, stood by his claims that Mr Bercow “brutalised” staff after the former speaker dismissed them as “total and utter rubbish”.

Labour MP Dan Jarvis, a former Parachute Regiment officer, said: “Having a distinguished service record does not preclude you from being a victim of workplace bullying.

“All of us in the labour/trade union movement have a responsibility to create a climate where people can voice their concerns and not have their experiences dismissed out of hand.”

PA