Mark Pritchard will no doubt be hugely relieved at the Metropolitan Police’s decision to drop their inquiry into rape allegations against him due to ‘insufficient evidence’. He has understandable anger towards his accuser:
“I was in a full and consenting relationship with her. The evidence supported this. It was only when I ended the relationship she concocted her vindictive and outrageous story. Sadly as an MP sometimes you have a target on your back.”
Pritchard has called for a review of the anonymity laws regarding false accusations.
But there are also questions to be asked about the Speaker’s role in the scandal – particularly in publicising Pritchard’s arrest. Bercow chose to announce the arrest in the Order Paper and also, it seems, to release letters sent to him by the police despite their being headed ‘‘Confidential for Speaker only’ and ‘Not for further dissemination’.
This isn’t the first example of the Speaker’s poor judgement. We have argued in the past that a series of errors have destroyed any chance of him maintaining the House’s faith in his fairness, balance and authority. Many of the questions about his attempted hiring of Carol Mills remain unanswered, the Conservative benches are deeply suspicious of his attitude towards them, and now he has intervened so clumsily in what turned out to be a baseless allegation against Mark Pritchard.
Bercow has proved to be resilient to a variety of criticism (almost all of it invited by his own behaviour). But how much longer can he stand as problems keep stacking up against him?