Sleazy does it

So we’re back in the Tory sleazy 90s. Remember Neil Hamilton?

His political downfall came in 1996, after the Guardian reported under the headlines “A liar and a cheat” that he had taken money in brown envelopes from Mohamed Al Fayed in the “cash-for-questions” scandal. His libel suit against the paper collapsed, leading to this infamous headline and his resignation from government. He went on to lose his Tatton seat to journalist Martin Bell in 1997’s general election.

Thirty years on:

5 Times MPs Angered The Public With Their ‘Sleazy’ Scandals

Kate Nicholson www.huffingtonpost.co.uk 

As Tories MPs have been accused of dragging politics back to the “worst of 1990s sleaze culture” with the latest controversy in parliament, here’s a glance back at some of the most jaw-dropping times MPs have breached the rules.

1. Paterson gets away with lobbying breach

Tory MP Owen Paterson divided Westminster after an inquiry found he had breached parliamentary lobby rules last week.

Paterson was accused of using his position as an MP to the benefit of two separate companies which paid him £100,000 a year to act as a consultant.

Paterson rejected the inquiry and said he was only mentioning safety benefits to other MPs – but the cross-party committee which organised the inquiry swept his protestations aside and claim there is a lot of evidence to suggest otherwise.

Then on Wednesday, MPs – most of whom were Tory – voted in parliament and rejected the committee’s suggestion he should be suspended for 30 days amid attempts to create a completely new watchdog for the MPs.

This has caused widespread controversy, with Labour calling it a return to the worst of the “sleaze” seen in the 90s.

2. Ongoing cronyism

Matt Hancock, then health secretary, was found to have acted unlawfully after of not disclosing the full details of the contracts signed during the Covid pandemic in 2020.

He also broke ministerial code by failing to declare that he had a stake in a family company which won a Covid contract.

Similarly, Michael Gove was found in 2021 to have acted unlawfully when he awarded a contract to a polling company run by one of his associates.

Neither minister left cabinet after such details were revealed.

Contracts worth close to £3.5 billion have been awarded firms with links to the Tory Party, according to Labour.

3. One rule for the public, another for us

Hancock did actually resign after The Sun published security camera photographs capturing the then health secretary kissing one of his married aides in an office in 2021.

While the affair alone stunned the public, it was actually the flouting of the social distancing rules which Hancock himself had advocated for which ground everyone’s gears. Even so, the prime minister did not fire Hancock – he stepped down on his own accord in June this year.

Boris Johnson has recently faced further accusations that he has not followed his own rules after it was claimed that his friend, Nimco Ali, spent Christmas with him last year when mixing was not permitted between households.

However, Downing Street defended the prime minister and said she was part of Johnson’s “childcare bubble”.

4. Expenses scandal

The expenses’ scandal of 2009 saw MPs claim money on a range of ridiculous items which stunned the nation, but many of them did lose their jobs when their claims were revealed.

Sir Peter Viggers, for instance, was paid more than £30,000 for gardening expenses across three years – he admitted claiming £1,645 for a ‘duck island’ alone alone and put in claims for 28 tonnes of manure.

He was told to step down when the revelations came to light.

Another Tory MP Anthony Steen also stood down after claiming the cost of a forestry specialist to inspect 500 trees on his estate.

Senior Tory MP Bill Cash claimed more than £15,000 in expenses to cover his daughter’s rent for her London flat while Labour MP Rosie Winterton tried to put in a triple-digit claim for soundproofing her bedroom – the list went on and on and left the country furious.

5. Robert Jenrick and the planning row

Former housing secretary Robert Jenrick faced calls to resign after he was found to have been involved in a controversial £1 billion development led by a Conservative Party donor.

Jenrick went against the recommendations of a planning inspector and approved the building of 1,500-home development in the Isle of Dogs –  even though the local council had also rejected the idea because it did not include enough affordable house.

He did not resign but was pushed out of the role in Boris Johnson’s recent cabinet reshuffle.

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