Owen paterson

Sleaze scandal scuppers second jobs

So Owen Paterson managed in a month what 100 years of opposition efforts couldn’t: turn his true blue seat to yellow for the first time since the aftermath of the Boer War. Mr S wonders if his newly elected successor Helen Morgan will show her appreciation in her maiden speech – ‘thanks Owen, couldn’t have done it without you.’  But even though he’s gone, Paterson’s influence still seems to be felt on the green benches. For it seems that the sleaze scandal which his downfall triggered has spooked older MPs into quitting lucrative second jobs, judging by the newly-updated register of members’ interests. A number of senior Tories have shed many of these

Katy Balls

Tory defeat in North Shropshire as Lib Dems take former safe seat

Ministers are waking up this morning to a big Tory upset in North Shropshire. In the by-election sparked by the Owen Paterson sleaze row, the Liberal Democrats have won the seat from the Conservatives overturning a majority of 22,949. In what has long been regarded as a safe seat for the Tories (they have come out on top in the area for almost 200 years), the Liberal Democrats won 17,957 votes with the Conservatives managing just 12,032 votes. This gives the Lib Dems a majority of 5,925. Labour came third with 3,686 votes. This result clearly will be tied to Boris Johnson’s leadership and the difficult time the Prime Minister

Could there be a Tory upset in North Shropshire?

As the government turns its attention to the new Covid variant, the ramifications of the Owen Paterson sleaze row are not quite done yet. After a difficult few weeks for the Prime Minister and his team in 10 Downing Street, Boris Johnson’s approval ratings have fallen both with the general public and Tory members. The latest ConservativeHome poll puts Johnson in negative ratings for the second time since the last election among the Tory grassroots — on -17.2. In a way, it’s hardly surprising Johnson’s standing has fallen given the combination of problems facing the government — from tax rises to small boats and the Paterson row. The question is,

Johnson’s liaison committee skewering

Boris Johnson didn’t enjoy his two hours in front of the Liaison Committee this afternoon, and not just because he was asked repeatedly about his handling of the Tory sleaze row. He also struggled with questions about what his government was up to more generally, and appeared at times exasperated with the select committee chairs who asked them. Having spent the past couple of months riffing on Kermit the Frog’s mantra that ‘it’s not that easy being green’, it seemed Johnson was starting to realise that it’s also not that easy being Prime Minister. There is just so much to do, after all. Perhaps his workload was the reason Johnson was,

Blue on Blue: May savages Boris

The faults in the Tory party were on show for all to see today, as MPs were forced to debate No 10’s efforts to block Owen Paterson’s suspension from the Commons. Ministers had hoped to quietly u-turn on their efforts to overhaul the standards system but following Sir Chris Chope’s last minute intervention, a very public debate played out in public today. Members on both sides of the aisle queued up to savage the government’s handling of the case. Shadow Commons leader Thangham Debbonaire attacked the ‘total absence of leadership we have seen from this sorry government over this sorry affair’ while her SNP counterpart Pete Wishart noted how ‘public trust’ in

Watch: Christopher Chope torpedoes end to sleaze affair

You’d have thought certain Tory grandees would be chastened after the past fortnight. But while most Conservatives on the green benches now admit the decision to try to overrule the standards committee’s recommendations on Owen Paterson was a mistake, it seems that one diehard remains unbowed. Step forward Sir Christopher Chope, the veteran MP for Christchurch, and no stranger to political controversy. Chope of course is a long-time member of the Tory awkward squad who specialises in filibustering parliamentary bills, most famously in 2018 when he blocked legislation that would have made upskirting an offence – an act which led to Commons staff placing a bunting of women’s underwear outside his office entrance. Tonight

Isabel Hardman

The sleaze row isn’t finished yet

Number 10 will have been relieved that the weekend did not bring new stories about Conservative MPs raking in lots of money from second jobs. There were still sleaze angles in the Sunday papers, including regarding the Prime Minister’s own dealings, but the air seems to be going out of the story a little. The past two weeks has opened up a chasm between the ‘red wall’ MPs elected in 2019 and more traditional Tories The trouble is that this week brings a whole host of new chances for the row to blow up once again. There’s the Liaison Committee hearing with the Prime Minister on Wednesday, which will include

Sunday shows round-up: Starmer calls Boris ‘corrupt and contemptible’ over Paterson

Keir Starmer: PM’s actions over Paterson ‘corrupt and contemptible’ If the government could write its own headlines, the last week would doubtless have been awash with the litany of pledges being churned out at Cop26. Instead, Boris Johnson has managed to earn the ire of not just the opposition, but also his own side of the House of Commons, after putting forward some hastily-retracted plans to reform Parliament’s disciplinary process. To cap it all, Owen Paterson, the MP whose career the proposals were transparently designed to save, has announced that he will be leaving the House after all. The leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, condemned a ‘pattern of

Who’s to blame for the Paterson fiasco?

So, how did No. 10, the whips office and the Leader of the House get the Paterson situation so wrong? As I say in the Times this morning, experienced parliamentarians had warned that a Tory-only attempt to change the rules would fail. Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, had suggested a week ago that a Speaker’s Commission could be asked to look at changes to the way the standards committee operated. This would have ensured that things were done on a cross-party basis; and with the Speaker in the chair, no party would have had a majority. But this advice was ignored. One government source

Owen Paterson quits the Commons – what next?

Owen Paterson has resigned as an MP. In a dramatic turn of events, Paterson has in the past 24 hours gone from being spared suspension over a breach of the lobbying rules to facing a fresh vote that many Tories thought he could lose. On hearing the news of the U-turn, Paterson issued a statement saying that he will be stepping down in order to pursue a life ‘outside the cruel world of politics’. He continues to refute the commissioner’s findings against him: I have today, after consultation with my family, and with much sadness decided to resign as the MP for North Shropshire. The last two years have been an indescribable

James Kirkup

Paterson resigns. Johnson is diminished

What are the long-term political implications of the government’s clown show over Owen Paterson? My guess is that voters won’t pay too much attention, but MPs certainly will. And that could matter at least as much. Start with the public. Do voters feel angry that their Prime Minister doesn’t play by the rules — written and unwritten — of politics and government? There’s a lot to be angry about, and ripping up the rules against cash-for-lobbying certainly justifies rage. And maybe in time, the idea of the PM as leader of a privileged clique who don’t play by the same rules as the rest of us will indeed prove harmful to

Isabel Hardman

Tory sleaze: How much trouble is Boris Johnson in?

It’s been a dizzying 24 hours for Angela Richardson, who was last night sacked as a junior ministerial aide to Michael Gove, only to get the job back this morning. The reason for this whirlwind? Richardson broke the Tory whip last night by abstaining on the government’s plan to tear up the standards committee regime and put Owen Paterson’s suspension on hold. She said at the time that it was a ‘matter of principle’ for her — but with the U-turn from the government this morning, she found that she was once again on the right side of policy. Tory MPs stopped bothering to defend new policies to their constituents

MPs vote to overhaul their own watchdog

MPs have voted in favour of overhauling their own watchdog after its decision to ban a senior Tory backbencher from the House of Commons. The committee on standards found that former minister Owen Paterson had breached lobbying rules and recommended he be suspended from the House for 30 days. However, the government backed an amendment to the vote on his suspension — normally treated as a formality — that will now see a new committee set up to fix ‘potential defects’ in the way the current disciplinary system works. Detractors of the cross-party body have accused the standards commissioner, Kathryn Stone, of anti-Tory bias. Paterson himself has said that the protracted

James Forsyth

The Tories give Rayner an open goal

It sums up Keir Starmer’s political luck, or lack thereof, that he was at home with Covid today rather than at PMQs. The Owen Paterson row is an open goal for an opposition leader. The government has decided to whip Tory MPs to vote for an attempt to change the standards ruling. Starmer wasn’t there to exploit it, so Angela Rayner got to take the shot. She hammered the Tories on the ‘one rule for them, another rule for everyone else’ theme. There have clearly been flaws in the way that the standards commissioner conducts her inquiries. But seeking to change the rules right now looks dreadful. It provides Labour with lots of

The looming showdown over Owen Paterson

Rising taxes, middling growth, the spectre of inflation – there’s much at present to get Tory MPs annoyed. But it’s not just the Budget that’s got some of them exercised this week; a damning report into Owen Paterson by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has wound up many on the backbenches. The former Cabinet minister has hit back strongly against claims that he had ‘repeatedly’ used his position to benefit two companies who paid him as a consultant, with Paterson calling on colleagues to waive Parliamentary privilege so he can challenge the inquiry’s findings in the courts. Jacob Rees-Mogg today told MPs that the Commons will debate and vote on Paterson’s 30-day suspension from Parliament on Wednesday. Normally

Watch: Top five blue-on-blue Tory MP attacks

After seven and a half hours, the House of Commons debate on Afghanistan has finally concluded. Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab will not have fond memories of the day. Keir Starmer, in front of a packed House of Commons for the first time in his leadership, delivered a respectable performance, replete with jabs at the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. But it will be the criticisms from Tory MPs that will have alarm bells ringing in No. 10 tonight, after a series of bruising condemnations delivered by one senior backbencher after another. Below Steerpike brings you the top five flashpoints of blue on blue attacks from today’s debate in the House of