THE Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, is an “amazing man” who has shown more love and Christian charity than many others who claim to be Christian, his chaplain, Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin, has said.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 programme Woman’s Hour on Monday morning, Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin, a Chaplain to the Queen, defended Mr Bercow, who has been under fire in recent weeks: “We like to describe people and put them in a box. I have seen more evidence of love and Christian charity from that man than I often seen in other places where they have a Christian faith.
“I know that he is a decent human being. He has been accused of lots of things in the media, but I can tell you that he is a decent, generous, human being.”
Mr Bercow was accused in May of bullying by his former private secretary, Angus Sinclair. A proposed inquiry into his behaviour was dropped earlier this month. The Commons leader, Andrea Leadsom, issued a new behaviour code on Monday to prevent bullying in Parliament. She said it would cover the Speaker’s Office, which has hitherto been responsible for policing parliamentary conduct.
Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin, besides being Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, is Honorary Priest-in-Charge of St Mary at Hill with St Andrew Hubbard, St George’s, Botolph Lane, and St Botolph by Billingsgate in the City of London. She told the presenter Jane Garvey that one responsibility as Chaplain to the Speaker was to lead prayers in the parliamentary chamber before proceedings start.
She described this as “a sort of calm before the storm of noise” to which “as many as possible” turn up — though, for some, she admitted, this may be a way to save a seat in a packed chamber before PMQs on a Wednesday.
“We have more MPs than seats, so on a Wednesday people might need to put their prayer cards in to save seats, but there are other days when people come in when there is no need to do that. Some say to me: ‘I don’t actually have a faith, but there is something in that voice that draws me to prayer.’”
Questioned about the Prime Minister’s faith, she said: “I am sure she will need her faith to carry her through these stormy waters. It is deeply challenging.
“I speak to lots of MPs. As their chaplain, my sole task is praying for them, supporting them in prayer.”
Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin was guest-editing the programme. Her topics of choice for discussion were knife and gun crime, the African prison project (News, 8 December 2017), and the sacrifices and legacies of the Windrush women.
On violent crime, she said: “I want us . . . to really understand that this tragedy that is being visited upon us is not something for the black community. This is something for the whole of Britain. . .
“The stories of the mothers and families who weep at the loss of their children: their story must become our story. If it does not become our story . . . it is going to be our downfall. We need to ask questions. . . We are spending far more incarcerating our young people than we are educating them.”
On the Windrush women, she said. “I cannot understand why women have been seen as second-class; I just don’t get it. . . We need now to get to that stage where women can take their rightful place, and it becomes normal.”
Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin said that she was lucky to have been born and brought up in Montego Bay, Jamaica. “I grew up knowing I could become whatever I wanted to be, so that was quite exciting. It was very important because young people growing up in the UK don’t get that and that is a pity.
“The women in my life, that older generation, who were absolute stalwarts, they had very little. We were all poor but there was a richness there from their faith — very important — but also life in general: they took negativity and made it positive.”