Sleaze – Tory true colours run deep

All it took was one Tory to holler “OBJECT” to block the attempt to reverse the “sleaze” vote. 

But was he taking his lead from the Prime Minister? 

After all, Boris Johnson has refused to apologise for the sleaze row and only admitted that he could have handled the matter better.

So the vote of two weeks ago to create a “kangaroo court”, stuffed with conservative MPs, to review standards still stands!  – Owl

PM fails to stifle sleaze scandal as ratification of Paterson report blocked

Aubrey Allegretti 

Boris Johnson’s attempt to draw a line under the sleaze scandal engulfing the Conservative party fell apart after a Tory MP blocked parliament endorsing a report that found a former colleague committed an egregious breach of lobbying rules.

The backbencher Christopher Chope was named by multiple sources as the person who objected to ratifying the findings about Owen Paterson’s behaviour which followed a two-year investigation by the Commons standards watchdog.

The government had tried to shunt the vote to the end of the day but put forward a motion that only one MP needed to object to in order for it to fail. In a deeply embarrassing move for the prime minister, one Tory cried out “object” late on Monday night – prolonging the resolution of the issue that has prompted some MPs to warn tensions are “frighteningly high” within the Conservative party.

Chris Bryant, a Labour MP and chair of the standards committee, said he had been assured the motion would be retabled on Tuesday with a one-hour debate to try again to endorse the Paterson report. Chope was contacted for comment.

Fury from Tories exploded at the issue being prolonged, with a minister telling the Guardian: “He has been for many year a Jurassic embarrassment – tonight he crossed a line. The man should retire and the executive are livid. If he comes into the team room tomorrow, colleagues would want to say two words to him and the second word would be ‘off’.”

A former minister said: “The fact we can’t deselect these people is baffling”, while a frontbencher called Chope “a selfish twat”. Backbenchers complained it would “make a bad situation even worse”, and expressed severe disappointment it was “handing Labour a freebie”.

Meanwhile, the shadow Commons leader, Thangam Debbonaire, said the “farce was of the Tories’ own making and serves Johnson right for trying to sneak a U-turn out at night rather than do the decent thing and come to the house to apologise”.

It came hours after Kwasi Kwarteng apologised to parliament’s standards commissioner for casting doubt on her future in the role earlier this month.

The business secretary wrote to Kathryn Stone saying he regretted his choice of words and recognised that ministers must adhere to high standards that treat others with consideration and respect.

“I did not mean to express doubt about your ability to discharge your role and I apologise for any upset or distress my choice of words may have caused,” he said.

Kwarteng made the comments in a broadcast interview as he was sent out to defend the government’s bid to overhaul the standards regime and spare Paterson a six-week Commons suspension.

He told Sky News: “I think it’s difficult to see what the future of the commissioner is, given the fact that we’re reviewing the process, and we’re overturning and trying to reform this whole process, but it’s up to the commissioner to decide her position.”

Just hours later, the government U-turned on its efforts to undermine the system that regulates the actions of MPs, as Johnson agreed to let the parliamentary standards committee come up with its own proposals for reform.

Tory MPs had already been whipped to vote in favour of reforming the system in a way that would let Paterson off the hook, but the government has since agreed to reverse that parliamentary decision.

After the motion narrowly passed on 3 November, ministers privately vented their fury and a public backlash forced the prime minister to U-turn.

Johnson promised to retract the motion that set up a new committee that would have been chaired by a Tory MP and reviewed the existing processes for investigating sleaze claims.

The humiliating climbdown led to Paterson resigning as MP for North Shropshire, and sparked a close examination of other lawmakers’ second jobs and outside interests.

In the nearly two weeks since, many in Johnson’s party have vented their frustration at yet another “unforced error” by Downing Street that has potentially cost them a lead in the polls and seen their faith in Johnson diminish further.

One former cabinet minister said there was still widespread unhappiness in the parliamentary party, with particular ire about the way the chief whip had been “hung out to dry” when the decision had ultimately been Johnson’s.

He said the preference of many Conservative MPs would have been to plea for leniency for Paterson, who has always denied wrongdoing, rather than letting him off altogether, but those MPs suggested that course had been ignored.