Latest Tory sleaze scandal shows that rules are for other people

CROYDON COMMENTARY: The backlash against the Tory government’s vote to let one of their MPs escape penalties for breaking the rules over lobbying has today brought the suggestion of a U-turn. But why is it one rule for them and another rule for the rest of us, asks OLGA FITZROY

Sleaze: Owen Paterson

Yesterday, the Conservative government applied a three-line whip to change the parliamentary rules on transparency and corruption so that one of their MP colleagues who had broken them didn’t get punished.

This morning’s latest Westminster drama means it is still unclear whether these changes will now be implemented, but the fact remains that 244 Tory MPs, including Croydon South’s Chris Philp, Sutton and Cheam’s Paul Scully, and Carshalton and Wallington’s Elliot Colburn, all voted to abolish the independent body tasked with upholding the parliamentary standards on lobbying and corruption so that their mate could avoid a miserably short one month’s suspension.

Philp, Scully (who appears on tonight’s edition of BBC Question Time, so get the popcorn in) and Colburn have all been challenged by this website to explain why their party whip was more important to them yesterday than the right or moral thing to do. Don’t hold your breath…

Of the Tory MPs who voted for this amendment, 22 of them had themselves been subject to an investigation by the parliamentary standards body, so were clearly champing at the bit to “reform” it so that they might carry on unencumbered. These included the likes of Iain Duncan-Smith, Peter Bone and Mark Francois, as well as Beckenham MP Bob Stewart.

Chris Philp: voted with the Tory whip, of course

I’m struggling to find a relatable comparison to the level of sleaze we’re encountering here. Perhaps Robert Mugabe miraculously “winning” the jackpot in the Zimbabwean national lottery in 2000 is the most apt.

The latest parliamentary sleaze row surrounds Tory MP Owen Paterson who, it seems, shares the late kleptocratic dictator’s penchant for topping up his earnings from other sources. In Paterson’s case, to the tune of £100,000 from lobbying firms.

While this might sound like another Westminster episode that has little to do with the real world, it matters.

Ordinary people who receive public funds, whether as wages or benefits, are subject to employment contracts or to very strict rules, even if some of these seem irrational or inhumane. In fact, in some cases this government is spending thousands of taxpayers pounds to fight court cases to enforce some of the more irrational rules.

Take for example, Nicola Salvato.

Salvato is a single mother on Universal Credit who argued that she shouldn’t be forced to front up the money for the childcare to which her family is entitled to and then have to claim it back from the DWP many weeks later.

A reasonable ask, you might think, but one this government is fighting all the way to the Supreme Court.

All aboard: Prime Minister Boris Johnson has backed Paterson, despite the MP breaking rules on lobbying

People claiming Jobseekers Allowance are regularly sanctioned for breaking the terms of their “Jobseekers Agreement” – with their benefits, often their only source of income, stopped for weeks for lateness or missed appointments.

Ask any self-employed mother on Maternity Allowance trying to get by on £150 a week while attempting to keep her business afloat. Mothers on Maternity Allowance are banned from working in their own business while claiming the benefit, meaning that many women’s businesses are mothballed, often never to recover.

The arguments I’ve heard from ministers and officials for many of these irrational rules over relatively small sums of money (compared to the lobbying cash that Paterson has been trousering) range from “we don’t want the system to be abused” to “well it’s maternity pay, so the mother shouldn’t be working at the same time”.

Basically, we’re worried about dishonesty, and you should only have one job at a time.

Which brings me back to Owen Paterson.

He already has one job, arguably one of the most important in any democracy, representing the 35,444 people in North Shropshire that voted for him (as well as the c50,000 who didn’t).

While, amazingly, there is no cap on second-job earnings for MPs, there are rules around what you can do to supplement your £82,000 a year parliamentary salary, and what you must disclose. Paterson broke the rules all MPs must abide by, and, a bit like the kleptocratic dictator, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his cronies stepped in to change them to try to avoid the consequences.

As of this morning, Jacob Rees-Mogg, as the Leader of the House, has ruled that the change they all debased themselves to vote for will now not be used to exonerate their beleaguered colleague. While angry front-page headlines and emails from constituents might be just about enough to force a U-turn, it was this government’s belief that they are above the rules that lead to their idiotic decision in the first place.

While many of us made unbearable sacrifices during the pandemic to keep others safe, this government treated us with utter contempt by trying to wriggle out of rules of their own making at every opportunity.

Dom’s trip to Barnard Castle, Johnson’s bogus “pilot scheme” to avoid isolating, or Matt “Hands-Face-MyPlace” Hancock’s office affair that definitely broke social distancing all show that for this government, and their friends, rules are nothing more than a minor inconvenience, to be ignored at will.

When Boris Johnson bends over backwards to rewrite the rules for an MP that has broken them, it sends a very clear message.

Rules are for other people.

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This entry was posted in Chris Philp MP, Croydon South, Elliot Colburn, Olga Fitzroy, Paul Scully MP and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Latest Tory sleaze scandal shows that rules are for other people

  1. I do think that constituents need to ask hard questions of ANY MP who voted in favour of this yesterday. Either they are complicit in corruption or they are so spineless and mindless that they are not fit to be an MP. Either way there is a problem, surely?

    • krautview says:

      Perhaps we should ask Owen Paterson if he could now spare a couple of hours a day to act as a financial consultant for Croydon Council. At his modest fee rate of GBP 500 an hour, it would only be 50% more per year than Croydon pays its chief exec and less than it paid the previous occupant of the post to go away. I am sure Mr Paterson’s friend and supporter Chris Philp would throw his weight behind such a move.

  2. Boris has effectively sacked him in a u-turn many will support. The hated Rees-Mogg is now trying to get all-party efforts to reform the standards system

    • It’s Johnson, not cheery “Boris” first-name terms. And that’s exactly what he is, an immense tool.

      Yesterday, he had 200-odd Tory MPs, including Philp, go through the lobby on fools’ errands, only to be tarred permanently with the appearance of being sleazy.

      Paterson might have resigned any time in the past six months, but was clearly given assurances that it would not be necessary. Now he’s done what the Tories will regard as “the decent thing”.

      Expect Lord Paterson of Sleaze any time soon…

    • There are a tsunami of other scandals in the pipeline. Johnson’s decorating debacle, plus the fast track PPE contracts to friends to name a few. No wonder the Tories want to change the Standards system.

  3. Laura Fewell says:

    When I previously questioned Chris Philp about his voting record, he blocked me. I recently used another social media account to ask him why he voted to dump raw sewage into our waterways and he ignored it entirely. Asking questions of our “representatives” is apparently not allowed and his constituents are so beneath him that we are not worthy of answers.

  4. jackgriffin1933 says:

    You pays your money and you takes your choice.

    A Conservative trougher without the self-awareness to accept what they had done is wrong.

    A Labour MP convicted of threatenening a ‘rival’ with acid and revenge porn, and without the self-awareness to accept what they have done was wrong.

    Both on the same day.


    At least Labour had the wit – for once – to bin its malfeasor post-haste; and not whip a stupid and self-serving change in the rules to support them.

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