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,

Isabel Hardman

Johnson is making the sleaze row worse

Is there anyone left in the Conservative party who is happy with Boris Johnson? The Prime Minister has now managed to wind up pretty much every single Tory MP with his handling of the second jobs row, opening up still more fault lines in the past 24 hours. His letter to the Speaker yesterday saying he wanted a ban on MPs taking paid work as parliamentary strategists, advisers or consultants — and that outside work should also be within ‘reasonable limits’ — has upset the many backbench Tories. They now worry that they’ll suffer a big drop in income thanks to the mishandling of the Owen Paterson case. This is not

Is Boris Johnson’s sleaze nightmare over?

Two weeks into this self-inflicted Tory sleaze scandal, Boris Johnson has set out plans to bar MPs from political consultancy roles and to make sure their outside interests are within ‘reasonable’ limits. Downing Street released this news just as Keir Starmer was giving a speech on Labour plans to bar most second jobs ahead of an opposition day debate on the matter tomorrow. The bar on political consultancy raises questions of how that would be defined, as I say in the magazine this week. Where is the line, for instance, between providing advice on the international economic situation and political consultancy? I suspect that for this ban to be meaningful

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

Does Rishi Sunak really understand red wall voters?

Rishi Sunak thinks Boris Johnson goofed badly when he conspired to upend Commons standards procedures. And he agrees with his red wall colleagues that this appeared to place the government on the side of a privileged elite. That is certainly the standard interpretation of his comment this week that the government needed to do better – and indeed unattributable briefings by an ally say that he regarded the episode as a ‘mistake’ which should be acknowledged by someone of cabinet rank. But if red wall Tories are tempted to regard Sunak as the true keeper of their flame then I suggest they think again. Because while Johnson has indeed gaffed, the

Starmer will struggle to capitalise on this sleaze row

‘You’re an accountant. You’re in a noble profession. The word “Count” is part of your title,’ the corrupt impresario Max Bialystock tells the neurotic bean-counter Leo Bloom in The Producers. Just a few weeks ago MPs from all parties had convinced themselves of something similar as they came together to pay tribute to David Amess. MP after MP spoke movingly about how they were all in it for the best of motives and how the public realm would be better served if everyone cut out ad hominem attacks on political opponents. Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner even put out an apparently heartfelt statement of regret about having described Boris Johnson’s

Boris Johnson will struggle to contain this sleaze row

A week ago today, Tory MPs were getting increasingly nervous about Downing Street’s plan to stay the guilty verdict against Owen Paterson. Despite warnings from various senior MPs, the government pressed on – and the result has been a firestorm about second jobs, with Geoffrey Cox now facing Labour calls for an inquiry into his conduct. We are a week in and the scandal shows no sign of abating It is hard to see how Boris Johnson gets off the hook he has caught himself on. If he tries to resolve this scandal with a set of strict new curbs on outside interests he will infuriate a considerable number of his

Tory MPs are furious at ‘missing-in-action’ Boris

Why did Boris Johnson avoid the Commons chamber on Monday? The official reason for the Prime Minister skipping an emergency debate on MPs’ standards is that he has a pre-planned visit. The problem for Johnson is that many of his MPs are taking it as another sign that he is missing in action when it comes to the escalating row over Tory sleaze, following the botched attempt to spare former MP Owen Paterson a 30-day suspension. While opposition MPs had plenty to shout about in that debate – with Labour leader Keir Starmer accusing the government of ‘giving a green light to corruption’ – it’s the Tory benches where Downing Street

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

Will the No. 10 flat criticism bounce off Boris?

Will the Downing Street flat criticism bounce off Boris Johnson? The Prime Minister is under fire this week over the refurbishment of the No. 11 apartment. After the Electoral Commission launched a formal investigation, today’s front pages make particularly miserable reading for No. 10. However, the Prime Minister has earned a reputation as a politician who is ‘scandal-proof’ in a way that many of his colleagues are not. Will this be the same?  Polling since the story took off is fairly limited but a BMG Research poll published today — taken Thursday to Monday — on the question of ‘preferred prime minister’ puts Boris Johnson on 40 per cent and Keir

Can Labour make the Tory sleaze allegations stick?

One of the reasons the row isn’t fading about Tory sleaze allegations and the Prime Minister’s conduct is that there are so many different facets to it. Each row has its own faction within the Conservative party and indeed within No. 10, and so far there is scant evidence that any of these factions are backing down. Labour isn’t likely to benefit from this story politically just yet While the stories are now front-page news, it is also the case that allegations about special treatment for friends and donors have been bubbling away for a year now. This is causing some satisfaction to some of those around Labour leader Sir