This week has marked a new low in Tory corruption, cronyism and chaos. On Wednesday, Tory MPs voted to tear up the rules that protect us all from corruption in politics, to protect ex-minister Owen Paterson from sanctions, even though he had earned £112,000 per year for giving companies access to our democratic systems.
I led the Opposition in piling on the pressure in the House of Commons. You will be aware of the huge public backlash. This seems to have taken the Tories by surprise, perhaps because they’re now so used to breaking rules and using public money for personal gain. But it was no surprise to me that people across the UK care deeply about democracy free of corruption.
Another twist came on Thursday morning, when the Tories dramatically U-turned. As I faced Jacob Rees-Mogg in Business Questions, he said they wanted cross-party support for yet another change. Owen Paterson was then left isolated, and subsequently resigned. Reports suggest he didn’t even know this was coming, implying that protecting him was not the aim of this episode at all.
So what is behind all this? I think this story will continue to unravel and become much clearer in coming days. But we can already see this goes right to the top.
The Tories’ ultimate aim in this seems to be doing away with the Standards Commissioner and sidelining the Standards Committee. Let’s not forget Boris Johnson is currently under suspicion for various dodgy dealings, including receiving ‘gifts’ for a £200,000 refurbishment of his flat.
Government-legitimised corruption has no place in a healthy democracy. Once again, it wasn’t the Prime Minister or the government, but Opposition MPs and public outrage that reminded a Tory leader that basic standards of public decency, are applicable to them too.
This government is rotten. And it stinks. We’ll keep revealing their dodgy dealings and put pressure on them to do the right thing, whether that’s repaying the billions in Covid contracts given to Tory donors or keeping the safeguards that protect us from corruption in public life.
As Shadow Leader of the House, I led for the Opposition in a debate on this scandalous episode (watch my speech here) and gave several news interviews.