We should hear from Suffolk MPs who backed PM over Owen Paterson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at the Build Back Better event during the Cop26 summit at the

Boris Johnson's handling of the Owen Paterson lobbying row has been heavily criticised - Credit: PA

“Politically corrupt … shameful and wrong” – the words of one former Conservative Prime Minister to describe Boris Johnson’s handling of the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal. Looking at the facts it’s hard to disagree.

Owen Paterson was paid over £100,000 a year (on top of his £82,000 a year MP’s salary) by two companies to lobby on their behalf. This he did, in flagrant violation of the rules, not once but many times.

He was found guilty by an independent investigator. This was confirmed by a cross-party Parliamentary committee whose verdict was: “No previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches or such a clear pattern of confusion between the private and public interest.”

They recommended a 30 day suspension from the House of Commons. The only controversy was whether this was too lenient.

So, it was astonishing that Boris Johnson instructed his MPs to vote to let Mr Paterson off. 

It’s hard to think of a more flagrant example of Boris Johnson’s belief that the rules don’t apply to him and are just for “the little people”. It was deeply corrupt, and its seriousness is not lessened by the screeching U-turn the Government performed when faced with a tidal wave of public revulsion.

The rule of law is a fundamental pillar of British society.

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We expect the rules to be followed and, if they aren’t, for the rulebreakers to be punished. Nobody should be above the law – not least the people who make the laws.

Britain’s Prime Minister should be the one person we can trust to uphold these values, not be the person leading the charge to trample all over them.

This is not a party-political issue. Many Conservative MPs still possessing a moral compass were horrified by what they were being asked to do and defied Boris Johnson by either voting against or abstaining.

Four out of Suffolk’s seven Conservative MPs did not back the Prime Minister. We have heard from some of them – Dan Poulter and Peter Aldous – about why they couldn’t support him.

I think we should also hear from the other three – Tom Hunt, James Cartlidge and Jo Churchill – about why they did.

- David Ellesmere is the Labour leader of Ipswich Borough Council

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