Bercow: I got abuse but this is much worse
The conference in session and Dame Margaret Hodge MP and broadcaster Emma Barnett
COMMONS SPEAKER John Bercow told the conference of his own experiences of antisemitism at school and during his political life — but admitted they “dwindle into insignificance” compared to the abuse now being directed at Jewish female MPs.
In an impassioned address, Mr Bercow also said his late father had implored him never to hide his Jewish background even if he never went on to practise the religion.
The Speaker said that he believed his and wife Sally Bercow’s three children “do not have a racist bone in their body”.
Addressing the issue of antisemitism, Mr Bercow said: “I’ve always been very open about my Jewishness and I have experienced antisemitism in my life. I experienced it at secondary school and I experienced it in political life.”
He said this antisemitism was “very often subtle — not explicit hatred — around all sort of words used in criticism, short of the word ‘Jew’.”
But he added: “The code could fairly easily be deciphered without too much effort.”
Mr Bercow then said: “My experience has nothing — it dwindles into complete insignificance and nothingness in comparison with what female Jews have experienced and do experience.”
Turning explicitly to the abuse experienced by Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth, Mr Bercow said a “repulsive cocktail” of
Father’s words: John Bercow antisemitism and misogyny had been served up to the pair over recent years.
He added: “They are very robust characters, but they shouldn’t have to be exceptionally robust. It ought to be possible just to be averagely robust and just be normal and not to have to contend with this vitriol.”
In further revealing insight, Mr Bercow said his father had encouraged him to be proud of being Jewish.
He said: “I was taught by my late father the importance of acknowledging who and what you are and never being embarrassed about, or inclined to apologise for it.
“I remember Dad, who died a very, very long time ago, saying to me: ‘Son, I don’t mind at all whether you choose to be a practising Jew in adulthood, but I hope in this free, open, pluralist and democratic society you will never seek to hide your origins.’
Speaking about his children, he said: “The idea that one might think of discriminating or vilifying somebody on account of that person’s ethnic origin or religious affiliation, or even family set-up, is just unconscionable and it wouldn’t occur to any of them.”
Mr Bercow heaped praise on Labour MP John Mann describing him as “a great ally, an extraordinarily robust character” in the fight against antisemitism and misogyny.
(above) (from left)