What are the sleaze claims facing Boris Johnson and the Conservatives?
Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party have faced a series of sleaze claims in recent days over MPs’ lobbying, second jobs and the prime minister’s own financial affairs.
At a time when Mr Johnson hoped focus would be on the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, Sky News takes a look at the mounting allegations facing the Tories.
Owen Paterson lobbying scandal
The catalyst for the current bout of sleaze claims was the government’s attempt to save ex-cabinet minister Owen Paterson from a 30-day suspension from the House of Commons.
It came after Mr Paterson was found by parliament’s sleaze watchdog to have breached lobbying rules during his £110,000 a year private sector work for two companies.
Tory MPs, encouraged by the prime minister, blocked an immediate suspension for Mr Paterson and voted in favour of an overhaul of the Commons’ standards rules by a new Conservative-majority committee.
However, following a ferocious backlash that saw the government branded “corrupt” – as well as a pledge by opposition parties to boycott the new committee – Mr Johnson performed a U-turn just hours later.
Mr Paterson subsequently resigned as an MP in order to leave the “cruel world of politics” as he maintained his innocence.
The prime minister remains under pressure – including from among his own Tory MPs – to apologise for the row.
A fresh Commons vote on the findings against Mr Paterson is due to be held next week.
Ex-minister’s £800k legal work in Caribbean
The row over Mr Paterson’s lobbying prompted fresh scrutiny of MPs’ second jobs, including those of Sir Geoffrey Cox, who is one of parliament’s biggest outside earners.
The Conservative former attorney general was revealed to have voted by proxy in the Commons, which was allowed under COVID arrangements earlier this year, while earning hundreds of thousands of pounds for legal work more than 4,000 miles away in the Caribbean.
Sir Geoffrey has so far earned more than £800,000 for his work for law firm Withers, who are representing the British Virgin Islands government during a corruption inquiry.
He has declared hundreds of hours’ legal work in recent months but has spoken in just one Commons debate since being sacked from government in February 2020.
Labour have called on the prime minister to “show leadership” and order an “urgent independent investigation” into Sir Geoffrey’s lucrative legal work.
They have suggested Sir Geoffrey’s constituents in his Torridge and West Devon seat “must be wondering if Geoffrey Cox is a Caribbean-based barrister or a Conservative MP”.
‘Cash for honours’
The Metropolitan Police are “considering” a letter sent to them by the SNP urging the force to launch a “cash for honours” investigation.
It comes after a Sunday Times report showed 15 of the last 16 of the Conservative Party’s treasurers have been offered a seat in the House of Lords having each donated more than £3m to the Tories.
They include Lord Cruddas, who took his seat after the prime minister rejected the advice of the House of Lords Appointments Commission not to grant him a peerage.
An ex-party chairman was quoted by the newspaper as saying: “The truth is the entire political establishment knows this happens and they do nothing about it… The most telling line is, once you pay your £3m, you get your peerage.”
But the Conservative Party have said they “do not believe that successful business people and philanthropists who contribute to political causes and parties should be disqualified from sitting in the legislature”.
The PM’s Marbella holiday
The prime minister enjoyed a free holiday in southern Spain last month thanks to a former MP he made a peer.
In an update to his register of ministerial interests, it has been confirmed that Mr Johnson stayed at a holiday home of Lord Goldsmith’s family “free of charge”.
Lord Goldsmith is a government minister who was previously Conservative MP for Richmond Park before he lost his seat at the 2019 general election.
Despite his rejection by voters in the south west London constituency, Mr Johnson subsequently made Lord Goldsmith a Tory peer in the House of Lords which allowed him to keep his ministerial role.
Questions have been asked about why the holiday was not declared by Mr Johnson in the separate register of MPs’ interests.
This has fuelled speculation the prime minister did not want to declare an approximate value of the free holiday, with the Goldsmiths’ holiday home reported to usually cost as much as £25,000 a week to rent.
Labour have written to parliament’s sleaze watchdog to ask if Mr Johnson has breached rules.
But Downing Street has said the prime minister’s holiday has been properly declared.
The prime minister’s ministerial standards adviser, Lord Geidt, had scrutinised the declaration as part of the process, Number 10 added.
The PM’s flat refurbishment
Earlier this year it was announced the Electoral Commission was conducting a formal investigation into the prime minister’s refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.
It followed growing questions over how and when Mr Johnson’s revamp of his private flat, above 11 Downing Street, was paid for.
The Electoral Commission is considering whether laws on political donations were broken amid reports multimillionaire Tory donor Lord Brownlow offered £58,000 to fund the work on the residence.
Follow the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker
In a separate investigation, Lord Geidt has already cleared Mr Johnson of breaching ministerial rules.
But he said the prime minister “unwisely” allowed the refurbishment to proceed without “more rigorous regard” for how it would be funded.
It was reported last week that Conservative Party officials have been handed the initial findings of the Electoral Commission’s own investigation into the matter.
The Daily Telegraph said the approaching end of the Electoral Commission’s work raised the possibility of parliament’s commissioner for standards, Kathryn Stone, soon launching her own investigation.
Source: Read Full Article