UK PM Accused of “Corruption” for Backing Bid to Suspend Lobbying Probe of Tory MP
By Staff, Agencies
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was accused of "corruption" following Tuesday's vote to protect Tory lawmaker and former minister Owen Paterson from being suspended over alleged violations of the House of Commons' rules on lobbying.
The former secretary of state for Northern Ireland was facing a 30-day suspension from the Commons for "repeatedly" breaching lobbying rules over his paid consultancy work on behalf of the clinical diagnostics company Randox, and Lynn's Country Foods, a meat processor and distributor.
Johnson, who supported the move to block Paterson's suspension, was also accused of a "colossal misjudgment", with some Conservatives claiming the government had created "one rule for us, another rule for everyone else".
Although Labour, the Scottish National Party, and Lib Dems, along with 13 Conservative MPs, voted against protecting Paterson, the move not to suspend the MP for North Shropshire was backed by a majority of 18.
There were cries of "shame" and "what have you done to this place" in the Commons following the vote.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, for his part, pointed the finger at the government for "wallowing in sleaze".
"I am sick of people skirting around calling this out for what it is: corruption. Paterson was receiving money from a private company to ask questions on its behalf", he wrote in an article for The Guardian.
Starmer argued that the Tories' "plan is to permanently weaken the structures that hold MPs to high standards" and that instead of "trying to sort things out, we [the UK] have a government that wants to stitch things up".
According to the Labour leader, the country has "a prime minister whose name is synonymous with sleaze, dodgy deals, and hypocrisy".
Paterson, in turn, defended his actions in an interview with Sky News, underscoring that he would have "no question" in acting the same way again.
"No, I wouldn't hesitate tomorrow. Absolutely. When we found out about the milk I realized it was absolute dynamite. First of all it was very obvious that lives were at risk, and secondly, if it had been mishandled and had been leaked to keen media agents like you, we could have absolutely blown the UK dairy industry apart", Paterson claimed.
He insisted that he had "absolutely no hesitation whatever in calling a meeting very rapidly", adding, "and if you look at the witness statements, they are grateful that I did do that. As a result of those efforts, British milk is now safer. And we did it without disrupting the dairy industry. So I wouldn't hesitate to do it again tomorrow, absolutely no question".