Owen Paterson, an influential Conservative backbencher and former cupboard minister, was dealing with a 30-day suspension after being accused of an “egregious” breach of lobbying guidelines.
Paterson despatched a number of emails to government officers on behalf of two corporations that between them paid him a wage of £100,000 ($136,000) as a guide. Paterson claims he was elevating issues in regards to the high quality of milk and pork; Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary requirements commissioner, disagrees.
On Wednesday, Paterson persuaded Johnson’s government to again an modification that might overrule his suspension and as an alternative refer the case to a newly set-up parliamentary committee of MPs chaired by one of his Conservative colleagues, John Whittingdale.
The backlash was so extreme the government appeared to make a U-turn on Thursday morning, indicating the proposals to overrule the suspension on Paterson wouldn’t go forward.
A Downing Street spokesperson mentioned in an announcement: “There must be tough and robust checks against lobbying for profit. There must be a proper process to scrutinise and — if necessary — discipline those who do not follow the rules.”
“I preserve that I’m completely harmless of what I’ve been accused of and I acted always in the pursuits of public well being and security.”
Downing Street has yet to respond to Starmer’s criticism.
Prime ministers are given £30,000 ($41,000) of public money a year to renovate their official residence during their term, but Johnson’s reportedly cost £200,000 ($280,000). He has been accused of trying to get Conservative donors to pay for the work, plans that his former adviser Dominic Cummings called “unethical, silly, (and) presumably unlawful.” Johnson has denied any wrongdoing.
Johnson also stands accused of trying to get a Conservative-friendly, right-wing former newspaper editor, Paul Dacre, the top job at Britain’s media regulator, Ofcom.
The government has appointed a lobbyist with very close links to the Conservative Party as the senior external interviewer for the job, which has been seen as an attempt to smooth the way for Dacre.
Frustratingly for the opposition Labour Party, these scandals don’t necessarily translate to public condemnation of the government. While Starmer is right in his claim that, for some, Johnson’s name is synonymous with sleaze, other voters have baked a certain amount of scandal into this prime minister.
However, whereas this is not hurting Johnson proper now, sleaze, Ford notes, does have a behavior of build up over time.
“It could affect him though. Sleaze is more like a corrosive fog than an immediate problem. It could build up. A lot of the voters he won over by backing Brexit were inherently distrustful of politicians in the first place, so there could come a time where it suddenly hurts him badly.”